China’s soybean imports jumped 19% in December compared with a year ago, customs data showed on Friday, as buyers stocked up on beans to ease tight supplies in the world’s top oilseed importer.
China imported 10.56 million tonnes of soybeans in December, the highest for a month since June 2021, after several months of lower-than-expected arrivals that had pushed soymeal prices to record levels.
China buys soybeans to crush into soymeal for animal feed and oil for cooking.
Overall imports for 2022, however, were 5.6% lower than the year before at 91.08 million tonnes, data from the General Administration of Customs also showed.
The customs agency published the data on its website shortly after 0200 GMT, but later the information had disappeared from the site.
The lower 2022 arrivals, the second annual decline, comes after a turbulent year for the trade with surging global prices and logistics issues curbing China’s imports.
Weaker animal feed consumption has also affected soymeal demand. Rabobank expects animal feed consumption in 2022 to contract 1% compared with the year before because of declines in pig and poultry numbers.
Crushing margins in China have been negative since mid-December because of high global prices and weak soymeal demand ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, which starts Jan. 21.
Historically low soymeal stocks are expected to support stronger soybean demand in 2023, traders and analysts said, with China’s reopening after three years of a strict zero-COVID policy seen boosting demand for meat.