Updated on 29 Jul, 2019
China’s U.S. Soybean Purchases Slump to 2004 Low

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U.S. soybean exports to China, the world’s biggest market, slumped in the first half to the lowest level in more than a decade while pork sales in June slipped from a month earlier as little progress was made on ending a trade war between the two countries.

China imported 614,806 tons of soybeans from the U.S. in June, according to customs data. That brought first half imports to 5.9 million tons, the lowest half-year level since at least 2004, according to Bloomberg calculations. U.S. pork imports dropped 16% in June from May, customs data showed.

U.S. farmers, who harvest soybeans from September to November every year, have been among the biggest victims in the trade war as Chinese buyers shift to other markets for agricultural products amid retaliatory tariffs.

Senior U.S. officials will meet in China on Monday for the first high-level, face-to-face negotiations since talks broke down in May. Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed to a truce in late June, and the Chinese government last week is said to have approved five companies to buy some U.S. soybeans free of retaliatory import tariffs as a goodwill gesture.

China’s soybean purchases from Brazil, where the harvest season lasts from February through May, totaled 5.5 million tons in June, customs data showed. That compares with 7.8 million tons bought in the same period last year.

Pork, Cotton

Chinese companies are expected to sign fresh deals on American products without having to pay retaliatory tariffs, including on corn and wheat, while they continue to buy U.S. soy, cotton, pork and sorghum, Xinhua News Agency reported late on Sunday, citing China’s Commerce Ministry and the National Development and Reform Commission.

Still, with the retaliatory tariff reprieve, Chinese crushers have not been active ahead of large imports of South American soy in July and August, and as the spread of the African swine fever, a deadly pig disease, curbs Chinese demand for the oilseed.

In June, China imported 30,681 tons of pork cuts and swine offal, lower than May’s 36,642 tons. May imports were the highest for at least a year despite the high retaliatory tariffs levied on the meat, as African swine fever reduced the domestic hog herd and tightened supplies in the world’s top consumer.

American cotton imports in June were 57,150 tons, lower than 63,510 tons in May. May imports were also the highest in a year, customs data showed. In June, China imported almost no American sorghum and wheat, while corn imports were just 1,238 tons.

(Adds more data and background.)