China’s soybean imports fell 24.5% in August from a year earlier, customs data showed on Wednesday, as high global prices and weak demand curbed appetite for the oilseed.
China, the world’s top buyer of soybeans, brought in 7.17 million tonnes in August, versus 9.49 million a year earlier, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.
The figure was the lowest for the month of August since 2014. It was also lower than July’s 7.88 million tonnes.
The low import number for August was expected, said traders and analysts.
“Imports have been very sluggish for the past three months,” said Darin Friedrichs, co-founder of Shanghai-based consultancy Sitonia Consulting.
Global soybean prices soared this year after bad weather cut production and exports from Brazil, China’s top supplier, pushing benchmark prices close to a decade-high in June.
That halted purchases by China, where heavy losses for pig farmers have also dented demand for soymeal. Soybeans are crushed to make soymeal, a key pig feed ingredient, and soyoil for cooking.
Industrial animal feed production fell almost 7% in July versus a year ago, according to the China Feed Industry Association.
Crush margins in China have been negative since mid-April, with crushers in the key processing hub of Rizhao losing 519 yuan ($74.80) for each tonne of soybean processed as of Sept. 5.
“June was much higher than expected so July and August should be lower,” said a Beijing-based soybean trader.
Hog farming profits have significantly improved in recent months after a reduction in the pig breeding herd, which should help demand for soymeal later in the year, said Friedrichs.
From January to August, China brought in 61.33 million tonnes of the oilseed, down 8.6% from the same period a year ago, the customs data showed.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Kim Coghill)