China’s soybean imports rise in December, annual volumes fall for second year in a row

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Imports of soybean China’s rose 19% in December compared with a year earlier, customs data showed on Friday, as buyers stocked up on beans to ease supply shortages at the world’s top oilseed importer.

China imported 10.56 million tonnes of soybeans in December, the highest level in a month since June 2021, after several months of lower-than-expected arrivals pushed soybean meal prices to record levels.

China buys soybeans to crush into soybean meal for animal feed and cooking oil.

However, overall imports for 2022 fell 5.6% from 2021, to 91.08 million tonnes, marking the second annual decline, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.

Last year was turbulent for trade with rising global prices and logistical problems holding back imports from China.

Lower animal feed consumption has also affected demand for soybean meal. Rabobank expects animal feed consumption in 2022 to have contracted by 1% compared to the previous year due to the decline in the number of pigs and poultry.

Historically, low soybean meal stocks would be expected to support higher soybean demand in 2023, traders and analysts said, and China’s reopening after three years of a strict zero-COVID policy appears to boost meat demand.

But China may not see much more growth in soybean imports after that. Slower growth in livestock production, improved agricultural practices and widespread adoption of low levels of soybean meal in feed formulas could reduce imports to 87 million tonnes by 2025, Rabobank said in a report this week, and 84 million tonnes by 2030.

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