China more than doubled its soybean imports in May, bolstering demand for U.S. supplies and helping push prices in Chicago to a 12-month high.
China, the world's biggest soybean-buyer, bought 2 million metric tons of the oilseed last month, 143 percent more than in May 2004, according to figures released by the Customs General Administration of Customs on Friday. Imports jumped 55 percent in April from a year earlier.
Rising Chinese demand for soybeans, which is crushed to make cooking oil and animal feed, has helped push prices up 17 percent the past month on the Chicago Board of Trade. Advance sales of U.S. beans to China had surged 43 percent in the year that began Sept. 1 from a year earlier, the U.S. Government said Thursday.
China's "livestock and poultry industries have been adding to their herds and flocks, raising demand for feed," said Monica Tu, an oilseed analyst at Shanghai JC Intelligence Co.
The United States, Brazil and Argentina meet about half of China's annual soybean demand.
"There is a far more optimistic tone about oilseed markets as supplies begin to tighten," ProFarmer Australia said Friday.
"Oilseeds could become more bullish very quickly if China swept into soybean markets and bought up a big chunk of U.S. beans" or production in Brazil and Argentina declines.
The Perth, Australia-based commodities research company expects global production of soybeans, canola and other oilseeds to fall by 1 percent this year to 377 million metric tons.
Soybean prices might average about 4.8 percent higher in the year ending June 30, 2006, from a year earlier on expectation global oilseed supplies would fall faster than demand, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural & Resource Economics said. Australia is the world's second-biggest exporter of canola.
"Growth in demand for oilseeds worldwide is closely linked to the use of oilseed meal in livestock feed," the Canberra-based bureau said. Stronger economic growth in China and other developing countries has boosted the consumption of pig and poultry meats, "increasing demand for oilseed meal in intensive livestock industries," it said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday advance sales of U.S. soybeans to China had reached 11.8 million tons from Sept. 1 through June 16 compared with 8.23 million tons in the same period a year earlier.
China's total soybean imports might jump 42 percent to 24.2 million tons in the year ending Sept. 30, from 17 million tons in the previous year, said Tu. Monthly imports might average about 2.5 million tons in June and July, she said.
Soybean purchases in the five months ended May 31 totaled 9.4 million tons, 25 percent more than a year earlier, according to customs statistics. (Agencies)