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Chinese Soybean Imports Suggest Transportation Shift

Projected increase in Chinese demand could increase soybeans sent by rail to PNW ports


USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) published its latest Chinese soybean import estimate for marketing year (MY) 2021/22.

FAS estimates China — the largest importer of U.S. soybeans — will import a record 102 million metric tons (MMT) of soybeans from around the globe, up from 100 MMT in MY 2020/21.

FAS reports China’s declining planted acres and increased crush demand could support record Chinese imports.

At the same time, USDA projects total U.S. soybean exports to decline by 5.3 MMT from MY 2020/21 to MY 2021/22.

Amid these overall export declines, the projected increase in Chinese soybean demand could increase soybeans sent by rail to Pacific Northwest (PNW) ports and decrease soybeans sent by barge to the Gulf.

PNW ports accounted for 42% of U.S. oceangoing soybean exports to China, whereas PNW ports accounted for only 3% of soybean exports to non-China destinations, according to USDA grain inspections data from 2016 through 2020.

From MY 2010/11, China has annually averaged 53% of the total U.S. annual soybean export volume.

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