The trade dispute between the United States and China is having a dramatic impact on where China sources its imported soybeans.
During the month of September, China imported 28% more soybeans from Brazil compared to September of 2017. In September, China imported 7.59 million tons of soybeans from Brazil compared to 5.49 million tons in September of 2017. During the month, 95% of China's soybean imports came from Brazil compared to 73% last year.
In contrast, China greatly reduced their soybean imports from the United States during September. China only imported 132,248 tons of soybeans from the United States during September compared to last September when they imported 937,000 tons.
Sometimes these numbers are hard to put into proportion, so here is a different way to look at these September numbers. During September, China imported 57 times more soybeans from Brazil compared to the United States. If we would assume that an average vessel holds 60,000 tons of soybeans, during the month of September, China imported 126 vessels of soybeans from Brazil compared to 2 vessels from the United States.
China also reduced its soybean imports from Argentina during September. During September 2018, China imported 153,510 tons of soybeans from Argentina compared to 738,472 tons during September of 2017.
Up until the third week of October, Brazil had exported 73.1 million tons of soybeans during their marketing year which ends at the end of January, which is 5 million tons more than during the same period last year.
According to Vlamir Brandalizze of Brandalizze Consulting, if Brazil's soybean exports during November and December proceeded at the same pace as in 2017 (which is not likely), Brazil's total soybean exports for 2018 would surpass 78 million tons. If Brazil's soybean exports during November and December proceed at the same pace as during October (which is more likely), Brazil's total soybean exports could surpass 90 million tons.
Generally, China imports the majority of its soybeans from the U.S. during the fourth quarter, but that is not likely to happen this year.