China imports of US soybeans hit four-year high in 2021: data

Chinese soybean imports from the US surged 25% last year to the highest level since 2017 despite a bumper Brazilian supply as China aimed to fulfil the purchase target under the US-China Phase One Trade Agreement.

Chinese imports of US soybeans reached more than 32 million tons in 2021 calendar year, up nearly 25% from the year before. While imports of Brazilian soybeans into China last year sank more than 9% on the year to 58 million tons, according to data from China’s General Administration of Customs on Thursday.

The annual import volume from the US was the highest since 2017 before the US-China trade war.

For December 2021, China imported more than 6 million tons of US soybeans, up 67% from the previous month as 2021/22 new crops arrived.

On the contrary, the volume of Brazilian soybeans cleared by China customs last month slid 43% month on month.

Chinese importers ramped up purchases of US soybeans since 2020 after the two countries signed the trade agreement under which China pledged to buy more agriculture goods from the US between 2020 and 2021.

The total value of agricultural purchases for the two years should be US$32 billion above the 2017-baseline indicating the value at around US$80 billion, according to the agreement.

However, Chinese soybean purchases from the US faced strong resistance since 2020 as the pandemic disrupted global supply chain, freight costs spiked to a multi-year high in Q3 2021 and crush margins in China slumped to negative territory since mid-2021.