China’s Record-Breaking Soybean Surge: 100 Million Tonnes Signal Unprecedented Growth in 2022-23

China's Record-Breaking Soybean Surge
China's Record-Breaking Soybean Surge

China’s Record-Breaking Soybean Surge: 100 Million Tonnes Signal Unprecedented Growth in 2022-23

China’s appetite for soybeans reached unprecedented heights in the marketing year 2022–23, with imports soaring to a staggering 100.86 million tonnes, fueled primarily by robust shipments from Brazil.

A report from the Global Agricultural Information Network, part of the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) under the US Department of Agriculture, highlighted that sustained demand from China’s feed sector is anticipated to maintain similarly high import levels in the following year, projecting 2023–24 imports at around 100 million tonnes.

This surge in soybean imports during 2022–23, estimated to be 9.3 million tonnes higher than the previous year, can be attributed to the recovering demand for soybean meal (SBM) in the swine and poultry sectors. Additionally, an increased appetite for vegetable oil in the food sector played a role in driving up the import figures.

The monthly feed production statistics from China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) indicate that feed production consistently exceeded the levels of the previous year throughout 2022–23.

According to MARA’s data, total feed production during this period witnessed a notable 10.3% year-on-year increase, reaching 319.8 million tonnes, marking a net growth of 30 million tonnes.

The growth in feed production corresponds with the strong demand reported by industry sources. Major feed producers, such as one in southern China, disclosed a 10.1% increase in sales value and a 7.1% rise in profits during the first nine months of 2023 compared to the previous year, highlighting the robust demand in the feed sector.

While the demand for soybean meal remained robust, MARA has been actively promoting lower protein rations in animal feed as a strategy to reduce SBM consumption.

Record-high SBM prices earlier in the marketing year 2022–23 prompted the industry to explore alternative feed options. This shift in approach aligns with efforts to optimize feed formulations while managing costs effectively.

The report from FAS also shed light on China’s ongoing efforts to diversify the origins of its soybean imports, emphasizing its reliance on Brazil as the largest supplier of soybeans.

Despite ample global supplies, China has consistently demonstrated its willingness to secure soybeans, particularly from Brazil, which had a record harvest in 2023.

Looking ahead to the marketing year 2023–24, the FAS adjusted its projection for soybean crush to 96 million tonnes, up from the previous estimate of 94 million tonnes.

This adjustment reflects a moderate expansion in the demand for soybean products, supported by ample soybean supply and relatively lower soybean meal prices compared to recent highs.

China’s initiatives to incentivize domestic soybean cultivation through various local and national policies continue to bolster production. However, the report acknowledged that lower prices for soybeans for food use could pose a challenge to sustaining higher volumes.

The outlook for soybean production in China indicates a modest increase from 19.4 million tonnes in 2022–23 to 19.7 million tonnes in 2023–24.

Total domestic consumption is projected to reach 115.1 million tonnes in the current marketing year, with expectations of a further increase to 118.2 million tonnes in 2023–24.

In summary, China’s insatiable demand for soybeans, driven by the feed sector’s requirements and supported by favorable conditions, is reshaping global soybean trade dynamics.

The strategic diversification of sources and ongoing efforts to balance domestic production and consumption underscore China’s crucial role in the soybean market.



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