China swine fever outbreak to curb its soybean imports

The disease along with high stockpiles are expected to curb Chinese soy imports

Singapore|Beijing|Reuters – China’s imports of soybeans are set to drop as an outbreak of African swine fever hits its huge pig herd and saps demand for the animal feed ingredient, making it easier for buyers to keep shunning U.S. cargoes amid the Sino-U.S. trade war.

African swine fever, deadly to pigs but not harmful to people, has spread rapidly through China, with more than 70 cases reported across farms since early August.

That and already large soybean inventories are curbing appetite for beans in what is by far the world’s biggest importer of the commodity, traders and analysts said, meaning buyers are unlikely to need to return to importing U.S. crops anytime soon.

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“Had it not been for the swine fever, China would have faced a shortage of beans early next year,” said a Beijing-based executive at an international trading company.

“Now it seems that soybean processors will be able to do without U.S. beans,” he added, declining to be identified as he was not authorized to speak with media.

Large domestic inventories are also playing a big part in the faltering appetite for soy.

China’s soybean stocks are at 7.45 million tonnes, the highest for this time of the year in a decade.

“The whole northeastern region has enough soybeans as there are lots of domestic supplies and crushers here have stored Brazilian soybeans,” said a manager at a crushing plant in Liaoning province in the northeast, one of China’s key areas for feed and pig production.

China’s December soybean imports are expected to drop 37 per cent to six million tonnes from 9.574 million tonnes a year ago, two of the trade sources estimated.

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