China June soybean imports fall on trade war, deadly pig disease

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s soybean imports fell 11.5% in June from May, customs data showed on Friday, as the Sino-U.S. trade war and an outbreak of deadly African swine fever curb demand.

China brought in 6.51 million tonnes of soybeans in June, down from 7.36 million tonnes in May, according to data from the General Administration of Customs. It brought in 8.7 million tonnes in June last year.

While Chinese buyers last year scooped up Brazilian supplies in anticipation of hefty tariffs on U.S. cargoes, importers this year were better prepared with stocks. At the same time, African swine fever has slashed the size of the pig herd and cut feed demand.

“The June figures were expected to be lower than last year due to the trade war and African swine fever,” Xiang Bo, an analyst with Zheshang Futures, said before the data was released.

China slapped a 25% tariff on U.S. soybeans last July as part of a trade war between the world’s two largest economies, bringing imports of U.S. beans to a halt until the two countries agreed to a truce on last December.

Chinese state firms resumed some buying of U.S. soybeans following the truce until trade relations deteriorated again in early May.

Importers again held off on purchases of U.S. cargoes before a large soybean sale to China was announced in late June, a day before a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Deadly African swine fever outbreaks across China have also killed over a million pigs, cutting demand for soymeal in the world’s top pig producer.

China has reported more than 140 outbreaks of African swine fever since it was first detected in the country in early August 2018.

For the first six months this year, China imported 38.27 million tonnes of soybeans, down 14.7% from the same period last year.

Reporting by Shivani Singh, Hallie Gu; editing by Richard Pullin and Christian Schmollinger

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