China has already started to buy US soybeans again

Soybeans exports from the US to China soared in November.
Soybeans exports from the US to China soared in November.
Image: AP/Nati Harnik
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2018 was a bad one for US exporters of soybeans. According to data from the International Trade Centre, the value of US exports fell by 20% from $21.5 billion in 2017 to $17.2 billion 2018. Nearly all of that drop was due to plummeting exports to China, which had slapped 25% tariffs on soybeans in July 2018. Soybeans are one of the US’s largest exports to China, and Chinese imports of US soybeans dropped 75%.

2019 looks like it might be a much better year.

Bloomberg reports that China imported 2.6 million tons of soybeans in November 2019, the most the country has imported in a month since early 2018, before the tariffs were enacted. The higher imports appear to be the result of tariff waivers issued by the Chinese government to firms importing soybeans. These waivers allow Chinese buyers to import US soybeans tariff free. The waivers were granted in anticipation of a partial trade deal China and the US are expected to sign soon.

China’s pent up demand for US soybeans could mean that China imports nine million tons US soybeans, according to the China National Grain and Oils Information Center, an official Chinese think tank. That would break the record of 8.8 million tons imported in October 2016.

A truce in the US-China trade war is likely bad news for soybean farmers in Brazil. The value of Chinese imports of Brazilian soybeans rose from $20.9 billion in 2017 to $28.8 billion in 2018, mostly by replacing US product.