New soybean orders from China aren't showing up in trade data -- yet

China did not immediately restart buying American soybeans after President Donald Trump and President Xi Jin...

Posted: Dec 13, 2018 7:33 PM
Updated: Dec 13, 2018 7:33 PM

China did not immediately restart buying American soybeans after President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping agreed to a temporary trade truce.

Data released by the US Department of Agriculture on Thursday show that China didn't buy soybeans from the United States during the week ending on December 6, five days after the two leaders met in Argentina.

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Farmers, who have waited for details on how much would be bought or when, have been encouraged by reports that two Chinese state-owned companies have placed orders this week.

President Donald Trump told Reuters in an interview Tuesday that China is "back in the market" to buy a "tremendous" amount of American soybeans. Reuters reported that Chinese state-owned companies bought at least 1.5 million metric tons of soybeans on Wednesday.

"You have to start someplace. I think it's a good sign," said John Heisdorffer, an Iowa soybean grower and chairman of the American Soybean Association.

The new orders alone won't make up for this year's losses. Soybean farmers have been hit hard by the the US-China trade dispute.

China, which was the biggest export market for American soybean farmers last year, stopped placing new orders in July in retaliation against new American tariffs. Many US farmers have had to put their soybeans in storage after harvesting them this fall.

The Farm Bureau has estimated that soybean exports to China are down 97% this year. Prices for a bushel of soybeans fell by $2 after the tariffs went into place.

The Trump administration has offered an emergency aid package to farmers hurt by tariffs. In September, about $3.6 billion was allocated for soybean farmers specifically. But the American Soybean Association said it would only "partially offset" the losses farmers will see this year.

At the time, the USDA said it could release a second round of aid before the end of the year, but farmers are still waiting to hear if it will come through.

Any new orders placed this week would not have showed up in the government data released Thursday. The US Department of Agriculture did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reports of new orders.

The US Soybean Export Council, which represents growers, shippers and merchandisers, could not confirm the report late on Wednesday, but was encouraged by the news.

"We're hopeful that our farmers can continue delivering high-quality soy to China and other customers throughout the world," said Jim Sutter, CEO of the council.

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