China's December soybean imports surge on year as cargoes clear customs

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s soybean imports in December surged 67% from a year earlier to a 19-month-high, customs data showed on Tuesday, as a flurry of U.S. and Brazilian cargoes booked earlier cleared customs.

FILE PHOTO: Workers stand near a crane unloading sacks of imported soybeans from Russia at Heihe port in Heilongjiang province, China October 10, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

China, the world’s top market for soybeans, brought in 9.54 million tonnes of the oilseed, up from 5.72 million tonnes a year earlier, according to data from the General Administration of Customs.

Shipments were also up 15% from 8.28 million tonnes in November.

“The figures were quite high as some delayed cargoes cleared customs, including U.S. shipments,” said Monica Tu, analyst with Shanghai JC Intelligence Co Ltd, a consultancy.

“Chinese buyers also booked quite a lot of South American beans, which arrived en masse,” Tu said.

For the whole year, soybean imports came in at 88.51 million tonnes, just up from 88.03 million tonnes in 2018, when higher tariffs curbed shipments from the United States.

Chinese buyers have booked U.S. cargoes in several rounds after being issued with tariff-free waivers in recent months, amid an easing Sino-U.S. trade tensions.

Importers also ramped up Brazilian beans due to good prices, and lingering trade uncertainty.

China traditionally sources U.S. soybeans in the fourth quarter of the year when U.S. produce dominates the market. But American cargoes plunged after Beijing slapped hefty tariffs in 2018 on a list of U.S. goods including soybeans in a tit-for-tat trade war.

Chinese importers later resumed purchases of

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