Brazil’s Surging Soybean Exports to China Signal Market Shift

In the opening months of 2024, China’s soybean import landscape experienced a seismic shift, with imports from Brazil skyrocketing by over 200% compared to the previous year. Data from China’s General Administration of Customs (GACC), released on Wednesday, March 20, revealed that Brazil’s soybean exports to China reached a staggering 6.96 million tonne during January-February, marking a significant departure from the previous year’s figures.

This surge in Brazilian soybean exports accounted for 53.4% of China’s total soybean imports, totaling 13.04 million tonne in the first two months of 2024. This represents a stark contrast to the same period a year ago when Brazilian soybeans comprised only 15.5% of China’s imports at 2.24 million tonne. During that period, the United States held the position of the primary supplier, with 9.84 million tonne out of the total 14.4 million tonne imported.

The primary driver behind Brazil’s dominance in the soybean market lies in its record harvest, which has led to competitively priced soybeans. This competitive pricing has prompted Chinese buyers to favor Brazilian soybeans, traditionally dominated by US imports during this period.

Consequently, China’s soybean imports from the US saw a sharp decline of 49.6% to 4.96 million tonne in January-February this year. This decline resulted in the US import share dropping significantly from 68.2% to 38.03%, highlighting a notable shift away from US soybeans in favor of Brazilian imports.

Looking ahead, it is anticipated that this trend will continue, with China expected to receive more soybeans from South America, particularly Brazil and Argentina, as they undergo their soybean harvests. Estimates from the China National Grain and Oil Information Centre (CNGOIC) project soybean imports for March at 6.5 million tonne, with an average monthly import of around 10 million tonne expected from April to June.

The surge in Brazilian soybean exports to China reflects a fundamental restructuring of the soybean import dynamics in the region, with Brazil emerging as a key player and signaling a notable market shift in the global soybean trade landscape.