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Soybean trade goes haywire as major exporter turns to imports

Washington

THE world of soybean shipping has turned upside down thanks to the ongoing US-China trade war.

Argentina, the No. 3 global soy grower, is making major purchases of US supplies.

A weekly measure of American shipments to the Latin American nation just rose to the highest in at least 35 years, US government data showed on Tuesday.

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With China shunning US supplies, the Asian country is soaking up oilseeds from everywhere else. Argentina usually processes its beans at home before sending soy meal and oil abroad.

Now, enticed by China's voracious appetite and a changed domestic tax structure, the country is shipping more raw soy, with some analysts predicting exports could quadruple.

In order to feed its domestic soy-crushing industry, Argentina is increasingly turning to imports, especially after a drought earlier this year hurt crops.

Meanwhile, US oilseed supplies have become relatively cheap. With China out of the market, demand for American beans has turned lacklustre at a time when harvests are booming, signalling a surge in inventories. That's good news for Argentine buyers.

In the week ended Nov 8, 249,278 tonnes of US soybeans that were earmarked for Argentina were inspected and weighed for export. That's the highest since the US Department of Agriculture data begins in 1983.

For the 2018-2019 season, Argentina-bound soy is close to one million tonnes, compared with none for the previous year.

Such a large amount for Argentina is "surprising", Terry Reilly, a senior commodity analyst for grain and oilseeds for Futures International in Chicago, said in an email on Tuesday. "They are taking more soybeans than previously thought." BLOOMBERG