Summary: China imported 6.92 MMT of soybeans in Oct which is the beginning of the Oct-Sep international marketing year. Ship lineup data indicates that China could import 5.02 MMT in Nov and 6.22 MMT in Dec. Thus, first quarter (Oct-Dec) imports could be just 18.2 MMT vs last year’s 24.1 MMT. That is down 25% YoY. In the Nov WASDE, the USDA projected China’s imports at 90 MMT, down 4 MMT from their previous projection. That is down 4.4% below last year’s imports of 94.125 MMT. Pace analysis strongly suggests China’s total annual imports will fall 4-6 MMT below USDA’s projection.
China reported that its soybean imports in Oct were 6.92 MMT. That is up 18% from last year’s Oct imports. The chart below shows that actual soybean shipments from the three principal exporters to China made in the month of Oct (which we presume will be reported by China as imports for Nov) are estimated to be 5.02 MMT. Ship lineups as of Nov 23, indicate that another 6.22 MMT will be shipped in Nov (which we presume will be reported by China as imports for Dec). If our estimates for Nov and Dec imports are correct, China’s first quarter imports will be down 25% from last year.
“Pace” analysis shows that, based on official import figures to date (plus estimates for Nov and Dec – – based on ship lineup data), China’s cumulative imports (as of the end of Dec) could be more than two standard deviations below what would be expected on average at this time IF annual imports are indeed going to be 90 MMT.
However, since April, China has not reported complete data on soybean imports by country of origin. That adds to the potential margin of error in our calculations. Consequently, based on our estimates it appears that China’s 2018/19 total annual imports could be 4-6 MMT below USDA’s 90 MMT. If this is confirmed, that would increase global ending stocks for 2018/19 (most of which would be added to US ending stocks).