Accelerated by economic growth, China has rapidly become the world’s largest crusher of soybeans, capturing the value added from processing beans into oil and meal.  Demand for soy oil in the food sector has remained strong, supported by rising incomes and changing diets.  Rising production of soy oil has eroded the need for imports.  Demand for meal in the feed sector has been stimulated by the expanding use of commercial feed which contains a higher percentage of soybean meal.  Increasing supplies of meal are partially offsetting demand for other feed ingredients.

Most of the beans used for crushing are imported from Argentina, Brazil, and the United States.  Conversely, much of the domestic beans are used directly for food, or more recently, has been sold to state reserves.

Meanwhile, some excess meal produced from those imported beans is also being exported in greater quantities to nearby Asian markets.  China has logistical advantages in flexible shipping sizes and delivery terms compared to major traditional exporters.

Overview

Global soybean production is forecast higher, with gains in the United States and Brazil partly offset by a reduction for Argentina.  Global trade is up slightly.  World imports for soybean meal and oil are up.  The season-average U.S. farm price is estimated lower, but remains at a record.  

Soybean Prices

U.S. export bids, FOB Gulf, in December averaged $580 per ton, up $10 from the previous month.  The strength is largely attributed to strong domestic (crush) and foreign demand, despite reported sales cancellations and favorable South American crop prospects.

As of the week-ending January 3, U.S. soybean commitments (outstanding sales plus accumulated exports) to China totaled 18.8 million tons, compared to 17.2 million a year ago.  Total commitments to the world are 31.1 million tons, compared to 24.6 million for the same period last year.

2012/13 Trade Outlook 

U.S. soybean exports are unchanged.  Soybean meal exports are raised 454,000 tons to 7.9 million, and oil exports up 159,000 tons to 975,000 tons to reflect larger sales commitments.  

Argentina’s soybean exports are cut 1.0 million tons to 11.0 million on reduced supplies. 

Brazil’s soybean exports are up 1.0 million tons to 38.4 million to reflect competitiveness supported by larger supplies.   

China’s soybean meal exports are boosted 200,000 tons to 1.1 million on the unusually strong pace for the first two months into the marketing year