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China May soybean imports hit record 12 million metric tons

China imported a record 12.02 million metric tons of soybeans in May, up 24% from a year ago, customs data showed, as cargoes delayed during recent strict inspections were finally unloaded at ports.

The imports by the world’s top soybean buyer were up from April’s 7.26 million metric tons, which were far short of expected arrivals.

Harvesting of the largest ever crop in China’s top supplier Brazil was delayed this year, pushing back arrivals of soybean cargoes, while stricter customs procedures at Chinese ports significantly slowed imports in April.

The delays led to low stocks of soybeans, driving up the price of soymeal, a protein-rich ingredient used in animal feed.

Last month’s large arrivals of beans have, however, brought down prices, with spot soymeal sold in crushing hub Rizhao down almost 20% during May to 3,670 yuan ($515.53) a metric ton.

The previous record for a month was 11.2 million metric tons in June 2020.

Arrivals in June could be even larger at about 13 million metric tons, said a Beijing-based soybean trader, based on the large shipments in April.

Chinese crushers snapped up cheap Brazilian soybeans earlier in the year, as the large crop weighed down futures prices.

Low hog prices in China in recent months are, however, hurting demand for soymeal, as are large volumes of cheap wheat that are increasingly available for feedmakers.

Swapping wheat for corn in animal feed can lower demand for soymeal because it has a higher protein content than corn.

Total soy arrivals in the first five months of the year reached 42.31 million metric tons, up 11.2% year-on-year, the General Administration of Customs data showed.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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