USDA 'too optimistic' on Chinese soybean imports

China's soybean imports may fall short of expectations, but rapeseed purchases may exceed forecasts, US officials said, in a report highlighting losses in livestock industries from Typhoon Rammasun.

The US Department of Agriculture bureau in Beijing estimated China's soybean imports two-thirds of the world total, and a much watched dynamic in the world market at 68.0m tonnes.

That is 1.0m tonnes below the USDA's official estimate, which is up for revision on Monday, with the shortfall reflecting actual trade data for the first nine months of 2013-14, which started in September, of 51.83m tonnes.

"Imports in July through September 2014 are estimated to exceed 16m tonnes, making total 2013-14 imports likely to reach 68m tonnes," the office said.

'Rapeseed surge'

For 2014-15 too, the USDA bureau estimated total imports, at 72.0m tonnes, 1.0mn tonnes below the department's official figure.

However, rapeseed imports have "surged" so far in 2013-14, reaching 3.84m tonnes in the first nine months, up 44% year on year, boosted by government plans to stockpile 5m tonnes of domestic crop at 5,100 yuan a tonne.

"High imports reflect lower domestic production and favourable world prices," the bureau said, citing export prices of 3,450 yuan a tonne including duty, "significantly lower than the domestic price".

China's CNGOIC crop bureau estimates rapeseed imports at 4.35m tonnes this season and 4.5m tonnes in 2014-15, compared with official USDA forecasts of 4.0m tonnes and 3.5m tonnes respectively.

Livestock losses

The USDA bureau factored in, besides Chinese government stockpiling, use of oilseed meal in making livestock feed, for which production early in the year was dented by the dent to chicken demand from avian flu fears.

However, feed output in May rose by 7.3% month on month, if still being 2% lower than a year before, while the CNGOIC forecast total Chinese feed production this year rising 2m tonnes to 193m tonnes.

Still, demand received some setback two weeks ago when Typhoon Rammasun, which Asian Citrus revealed had caused "significant" damage at its plantation in Guangxi province, had caused losses in the protein sector too.

"Additionally, industry sources estimated the strong typhoon in the third week of July resulted in losses of more than 20m poultry and 40,000 pigs in Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan Provinces.

While these actually represent relatively small numbers, compared with national chicken and hog populations, "the government expects the price for animal products to increase in the upcoming festivals mid-autumn and national day vacation".

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