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US soybean export pace 'needs to hit record' to reach target

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The US would need a record pace of soybean shipments for the rest of 2017-18 to meet even the downgraded full-season forecast revealed last week, officials said – but flagged cause for seeing strong volumes.


The US Department of Agriculture - expanding on the reasoning behind a downgrade on Thursday, in the monthly Wasde briefing, of 35m bushels in the forecast for US soybean exports this season – highlighted the slow pace of shipments so far in the season, which began in September.


“Cumulative shipments fell even further behind the 2016-17 pace,” USDA officials said.


And it would require a marked turnaround to reach the revised forecast of 2017-18, of 2.065bn bushels.


“It would take the highest ever March-August soybean shipments to realise even this scaled back forecast of annual exports.”


‘Buying interest could heat up’


Nonetheless, US export sales of soybeans “may well revive in the second half of 2017-18”, the USDA said, adding that recovery would come “despite record competitor supplies in Brazil”, the world’s top exporter of the oilseed, which thanks to harvest timings typically sees seasonal dominance.


“Current and deferred price bids at the US Gulf are still quite competitive with South American origins, which could eventually stimulate additional sales,” officials said.


Also, “buying interest could heat up by next summer with the possibility of sluggish soybean shipments from Argentina”, whose soybean output prospects have been hurt by dry weather.


The USDA reported soybean export bids from Gulf ports last month at $389 a tonne, up $14 a tonne month on month, but below the $394 a tonne from the key Brazilian port of Paranagua.


Barge hiccups


Further boosting the competitiveness of US export prices from now may be the resolution of hiccups to barge shipments from the MIdwest which have contributed to the sluggish pace of exports from Gulf ports.


Barge shipments to port elevators at the Gulf of Mexico have been interrupted by upstream flooding,” the USDA said, noting that “the rising waters make it more difficult to get tow boats under the loading spouts at river terminals and the bridges that span the waterway”.


Furthermore, faster water current “forces reductions in the size of barge tows, and restricts operations to daylight hours”.


US soybean export prices “could become more competitive once these transportation issues are resolved”.


Separately on Monday, the USDA revealed US soybean exports of 910,237 tonnes for the week to March 8, down from 1.014m tonnes the week before, but ahead of the 678,004 tonnes shippeed in the same week of 2017.


Total US soybean exports for 2017-18 have now reached 39.70m tonnes, down from 45.06m tonnes at the same time last season.

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