China Soybean Prices Spike as Trade War Worries Feed Supply Fears

August 8, 2018 Updated: August 8, 2018

BEIJING—China’s soybean and soymeal prices jumped on Aug. 8, with beans posting their biggest daily gain in a decade, as data showing a drop in soybean imports stirred supply concerns.

Customs data showed arrivals fell in July as processors ended months of buying to build supplies before tariffs took effect.

Soybeans are China’s chief weapon in its bitter trade dispute with the United States. Beijing hit U.S. shipments of soybeans with a 25 percent tariff on July 6 in retaliation for Washington imposing tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods, as part of the tit-for-tat trade dispute.

While domestic inventories remain near record highs after crushers built up stockpiles of Brazilian beans ahead of the tariff deadline, analysts said the fall in imports kindled worries about supplies in the fourth quarter when the Brazilian crop is sold out and the next U.S. harvest starts.

The United States is China’s No. 2 supplier of soybeans, which are processed to make cooking oil and animal feed, after Brazil.

“Now we are getting close to the U.S. soybean season, (in September) news like the trade war escalation and falling imports will have a bigger impact on prices,” said Pan Tiantian, analyst with Zheshang Futures.

The United States said on Aug. 7 that it would begin collecting 25 percent tariffs on another $16 billion worth of Chinese goods on Aug. 23, as it published a final tariff list targeting 279 imported product lines.

Beijing has said previously it will retaliate in kind.

“Money just piled in in the afternoon, betting that the trade war probably would not be resolved and there won’t be enough beans (in the fourth quarter),” said Tian Hao, a senior analyst with First Futures.

Reporting by Hallie Gu and Josephine Mason