Crucial crop: Farmer Jason Bean fills a soya bean container in Gideon, Missouri, US. The US-China trade war has rattled the soya bean market. Picture: REUTERS
Crucial crop: Farmer Jason Bean fills a soya bean container in Gideon, Missouri, US. The US-China trade war has rattled the soya bean market. Picture: REUTERS

Beijing — China’s imports of US soya beans nearly doubled in January from the previous month as cargoes booked after a Sino-US trade truce arrived in the world’s top oilseed importer, according to Chinese customs data published late on Monday.

China brought in 135,814 tons of US soybeans in January, up 95% from 69,298 tons in December. But the figure was still down 99.7% from 5.82-million tons a year earlier as Beijing’s hefty tariffs on US shipments curbed purchases.

China typically buys from the US in the last quarter and first couple of months of the year, when the US harvest dominates the market. But Chinese buyers have steered clear of US produce amid the tit-for-tat trade dispute and scooped up Brazilian beans instead.

Chinese imports of the oilseed from the US, its second largest supplier, fell sharply in 2018 and ground to a virtual halt in November. Limited buying resumed after the two countries agreed to a truce on December 1.

However, China brought in 4.93-million tons of Brazilian soya beans in January, more than doubling 2018’s 2.07-million tons.

Stockpiling means Chinese crushers have sufficient stocks on hand at present, a situation set to continue in coming months, analysts said, as the new Brazilian crop reaches the market.

China crushes soya beans to produce soya meal, which is fed to its livestock herds, but an African swine fever epidemic in China has also dampened demand for feed.

Top negotiators from Beijing and Washington last week discussed a set of agreements aimed at ending the trade war, including a 10-item list to alleviate trade imbalances, with additional Chinese purchases of US agricultural products.

China committed to buy an additional 10-million tons of US soya beans, US agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue said on Twitter on Friday.

President Donald Trump said on Sunday he would delay an increase in US tariffs on Chinese goods scheduled for March 1 thanks to progress in trade talks.

Reuters