February 25, 2018, 8:08 pm
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China import crackdown, war on smog seen boosting soybean margins

GUANGDONG- China’s crackdown on genetically modified (GMO) soybean imports and its intensifying war on smog this winter will boost soymeal prices and inflate crushers’ margins, extending an unexpected windfall for the oilseeds sector, executives said on Wednesday.

Crushers in the world’s top importer returned to profit in August, after months of losing cash, as the soymeal glut depleted due to strong demand from the livestock industry.

Soymeal prices will be supported by “the regulations on GMO and the environmental crackdown,” said Si Yao, head of trading in China at ADM (Shanghai) Management Co., Ltd, at an oilseeds conference.

“Some plants did not get GMO certificates, and that will support prices in the short term,” he said. 

The most-active soymeal prices were last at 2,825 yuan ($426.57) per ton while the Dalian crush margin 65.75 yuan per ton, compared with losses of 70 yuan in early August before plants returned to profit. They had been losing money since February.

The comments come as Beijing takes longer to issue safety certificates for cargoes of GMO soybeans, forcing at least two plants to suspend operations and tightening supplies of soymeal in the south.

It’s the latest major jolt to the world’s largest soybean market after major crushers shut plants due to delayed cargoes in August.

The subject was a hot topic of discussion at an oilseeds conference organized by Dalian Commodity Exchange this week.

“Getting a certificate is not as easy as before. Some beans could not be loaded, which will support crushing margins in the next few months,” said Yanchuan Li, general manager of the oilseeds processing division for COFCO.

The tougher import measures and the suspension of two plants caused panic among some crushers, which have quite low inventory levels, said a soymeal trader based in southwestern China on the sidelines of the conference.

On Tuesday, one of the plants reopened.

An environmental crackdown targeting the country’s 28 smoggiest cities across the north will also prop up prices and crushing margins.

“There will be stricter, more detailed environmental supervision measures. It will also affect normal operations and product delivery at some crushers,” said Yao.

Stringent steps to curb output across heavy industry have roiled commodities markets from natural gas to aluminum and soymeal.

“If the air is not nice in northern China, the environment is not good and crushing plants will have to limit operations, it will also tighten supplies of soymeal,” said Li with COFCO. 

Meanwhile, Chicago soybean futures rose for a second session on Thursday, with prices underpinned by strong demand from US processors and expectations of higher imports by top buyer China.

Wheat bounced back after suffering its biggest one-day decline since early September in the previous session, while corn edged higher.

The Chicago Board of Trade most-active soybean contract Sv1 added 0.2 percent to $9.77-3/4 a bushel, having climbed 0.9 percent in the last session.

Wheat gained 0.4 percent to $4.21-1/2 a bushel after dropping 1.9 percent on Wednesday, the biggest single-day decline since Sept. 7, while corn added 0.1 percent to $3.38-1/2 a bushel.

US soybean processors accelerated their crush pace in October to the fifth highest on record and second highest ever for the month, the National Oilseed Processors Association said on Wednesday.

NOPA said that its members crushed 164.242 million bushels of soybeans in October, up from 136.419 million bushels in September. The October crush last year was 164.641 million bushels, which was the highest ever for the month. – Reuters 

Typically, soybean futures climb after the US harvest ends and selling by farmers slows. The US Department of Agriculture late on Monday said the soybean harvest was 93 percent finished.

There was additional support for soybeans stemming from expectations of strong demand from China, which buys more than 60 percent of soybeans traded across the globe.

China will import 100 million tons of soybeans in 2017/18, a senior executive at COFCO Corp forecast on Wednesday, topping official US and Chinese estimates for intake by the world’s top importer of the oilseed.

“Both pieces of news helped oilseed prices,” said Tobin Gorey, director of agricultural strategy at Commonwealth Bank of Australia. “Soybean prices are nearing the same thicket of technical levels that prompted selling on the way down. On the way up, the same levels might instead prompt some buying.”

US soybean processors last month squeezed the lowest amount of soyoil from each bushel of beans in two years, according to an industry report on Wednesday, raising concern about the 2017 soy crop’s overall oil content.

Less oil per bushel of beans would mean tighter supplies and higher prices for the vegetable oil used by food and biofuel producers, but could bolster margins for processors.

Commodity funds were net buyers of Chicago Board of Trade soybean, soyoil, corn and soymeal futures contracts on Wednesday, and net sellers of wheat, traders said. 

In the wheat market, the focus is on Egypt which set a tender on Wednesday to buy an unspecified amount of wheat from global suppliers for shipment from Jan. 1-10. 
Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat importer, has been buying mainly from the Black Sea region. Grains prices at 0236 GMT – Reuters 
 
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