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China's April soybean imports jump 11% on year as delayed cargoes arrive

05/06/2021 | 11:51pm EDT

* April imports still affected by delay in Brazil - analyst

* Shipments seen even higher in coming months - traders, analysts

* Crush margins improved, but still pressured by high soy prices

BEIJING, May 7 (Reuters) - China's soybean imports in April rose 11% from the same month a year earlier, boosted by the arrival of some delayed Brazilian cargoes, customs data showed on Friday.

China, the world's top importer of soybeans, brought in 7.45 million tonnes of the oilseed in April, up from 6.714 million tonnes a year earlier, according to General Administration of Customs data.

"It was a fairly strong number given the delays we saw out of Brazil this year," said Darin Friedrichs, senior analyst at StoneX, speaking after the data was released. "May imports should be even strong(er) as the peak of Brazil shipments should be arriving now."

Chinese crushers have stepped up purchases of soybeans from top exporters Brazil and the United States in the early months of 2021, expecting higher demand as the country's pig herd recovers.

Rains in Brazil, however, delayed the harvest and export of its soybeans, resulting in a sharp drop in shipments to China in March. Importers turned to the United States to fill the gap.

Brazilian shipments were expected to pick up and dominate the China market from April till late in the year, traders and analysts said.

"April imports were actually below market expectation, as delays in Brazil still affected arrivals in the month," said Zou Honglin, analyst with trade website Myagric.com.

In the first four months of the year, China brought in 28.63 million tonnes of soybeans, up 17% from the same period in the previous year, customs data showed.

Soybean crushing margins slid into negative territory late in March <JCI-SBMG-SHDNI> as a new outbreak of African swine fever and the increased use of wheat in feed hurt appetite for soymeal.

Margins have improved in the past couple of weeks as demand has recovered, although they remain held in check by a rise in international soybean prices.

"Demand (in April) was expected to increase by 10-15% from March, mainly from pig farming," said a manager with a crusher in southern China, speaking before the data release.

"But we are still losing money (crushing the soybeans)," as the price of raw materials was too high, said the manager, who declined to be named as he was not authorized to talk to media.

China also brought in 3.8 million tonnes of vegetable oils during Jan-April, up 47.4% from the previous year, customs data showed. (Reporting by Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton; Editing by Neil Fullick and Kenneth Maxwell)

© Reuters 2021
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