Farm Talk

December 24, 2013

U.S. soybean exports to China soar

Lisa Pine
CNHI

Parsons, Kansas — U.S soybean exports to China are taking off for the 2013-2014 market year.  As of December 10, China had purchased 26 million metric tons of U.S. soy, primarily for use in China’s growing edible oil and feed market.  This figure is about 4.5 million tons higher than China’s U.S. soy imports for the entire 2012-2013 market year.

According to US Soybean Export Council CEO Jim Sutter, one reason for this rapid rise is that China may be avoiding potential shipping delays from South America.

”Even though the South American market has entered its soybean-selling season, it is still facing logistics difficulties to deliver soybeans. This has formed a big concern for Chinese companies looking to import their soybeans,” stated Sutter.

Soybeans are widely used in China for cooking oil and animal feed; many Chinese consumers have shifted away from eating a diet primarily composed of grains and have become accustomed to having more oil and meat.

According to American Soybean Association (ASA) Vice President Kevin Hoyer, this shift in dietary habits is an indicator of economic success and is demonstrated by China’s fast modernization pace of livestock and the food supply chain.

“The demand for soybean meals, edible oil, and soybean-based fish and hog feed will provide many opportunities for the U.S. soybean exports.  We have seen lots of potential in these sectors,” Hoyer said.

USSEC Country Director-China Zhang Xiaoping said it would be difficult for China to quickly increase its soybean output because farmers in the Northeast provinces cannot get more land or convert land grown for other crops such as corn and rice.

The cost of raising domestic output is high due to rising farming equipment prices and limited arable land.

“Restricted by the disparity of weather and climate conditions, Chinese farmers are having a hard time converting existing crops to soybean fields in other parts of the country.  Therefore, China is importing soybeans from the U.S. and South America, where the cost of growing soybeans is lower,” Zhang explained.

China’s edible oil imports rose 9 percent year-on-year to 5.98 million tons in the first three quarters of 2013 which indicates the country’s widening gap in edible oil supply and its increasing dependence on the world market for soybean and oil consumption. £