China’s soybean imports jumped by nearly a fifth in October from a year earlier, customs data showed on Thursday, with buyers stocking up on Brazilian beans amid worries over tight supply in the fourth quarter due to the Sino-U.S. trade war.
China, the world’s top soybean buyer, brought in 6.92 million tonnes of the oilseed in October, up 18 percent from 5.85 million tonnes in the same month last year, according to data released by the General Administration of Customs.
But that was down 13.6 percent from 8.01 million tonnes in September.
“The figures were higher than expected. It was likely that some crushers scrambled to buy more cargoes from Brazil as (the) Brazilian bean season neared the end,” said Xie Huilan, analyst with Cofeed, an agribusiness research firm.
Beijing imposed 25 percent tariffs on a list of U.S. products including soybeans and grains on July 6, in response to similar measures levied on Chinese goods.
China crushes soybeans to churn out animal feed ingredient soymeal for its massive livestock herds.
Chinese importers have been scooping up Brazilian beans in recent months, leading to bumper stockpiles of soymeal.
“We have sufficient supplies of beans, at least until the end of January. Some of our plants had to suspend operations due to high (soymeal) stocks,” said a source with a major Chinese crusher.
He declined to be identified as he was not authorized to speak with media.
China’s national weekly soymeal inventory stood at 893,000 tonnes in mid-October, the highest for the month in at least 8 years.
Meanwhile, the country’s soybean stocks hit a record-high of 9 million tonnes on Oct. 12.
The customs data showed imports for the first 10 months at 76.93 million tonnes, down from 77.3 million tonnes in the same period last year.
China’s soybean imports could drop in the coming months, with some traders predicting a shortage of the oilseed early next year.
But some are hopeful that U.S.-Sino trade ties could improve.
“My wild speculation is that the trade war might stop after G20 at the end of the month. But no one is buying American soybeans yet, everyone is waiting,” said Tian Hao, a senior analyst with First Futures said before the data came out.
The Group of 20 nations is due to meet in Argentina later in November.
(This story corrects soymeal stocks in 10th paragraph to 893,000 tonnes, not 89.3 million tonnes. Corrects soybean stocks in 11th paragraph to 9 million tonnes, not 900 million tonnes)