China’s U.S. Soybean Purchases Slump to 2004 Low

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U.S. soybean supplies to China, the world’s biggest market, slumped in the first half of 2019 to the lowest level in more than a decade 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 the total inbound shipments of the oilseed used to produce cooking oil and animal feed to 5.9 million tons in the first six months this year, the lowest half-year level since at least 2004, according to Bloomberg calculations.

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 are set to travel to 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.

It’s unclear if soybean purchases from the U.S. will pick up even with the retaliatory tariff reprieve. Crushers have not been active as China is expecting large imports of South American soy imports in July and August, and the spread of the African swine fever, a deadly pig disease, curbs Chinese demand for the oilseed.

— With assistance by Jasmine Ng, and Shuping Niu

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