China is buying more U.S. soybeans, as both countries try to reach an initial agreement on trade. Between September and November this year, Chinese imports of American soybeans increased 13 times from the same period last year, according to Xiaoping Zhang, Greater China Regional Director for the U.S. Soybean Export Council. That’s based on analysis of Chinese and U.S. data.
U.S. soybean exports to China dropped off sharply in the second half of last year after Beijing retaliated to U.S. tariffs with its own duties. As a result, all Chinese purchases of U.S. soybeans this year occurred through specific arrangements, outside normal trade channels that would otherwise subject the imports to retaliatory tariffs of about 30%, Zhang said in a phone interview Monday.
That trend was made public on Friday, when China’s Ministry of Finance said on its website, according to CNBC’s translation of the Chinese text, that Chinese companies “independently import” certain amounts of U.S. commodities and that the government is working on waiving tariffs for some U.S. soybeans, pork and other commodities, based on company applications. Chinese exports to the U.S. dropped 23% in November — the lowest single-month growth rate on record, after adjusting for the lunar year holiday — but imports rose 2.7%, the first increase since August 2018, according to China customs data accessed via the Wind Financial database. China’s overall soybean imports rose 53.9% in November to 8.278 million tons, their highest since August, according to China customs data accessed via the Wind Financial database.