Chinese purchases of key agricultural goods from the USA are below average despite the country promising to increase orders, according to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) data reported by AgriCensus on 10 June.

The USDA, however, was forecasting a sharp rise in purchases in the fourth quarter to make up for the shortfall.

Chinese purchases of soyabeans, wheat, corn and sorghum were all lagging five-year averages, a senior USDA economist told the International Grains Conference on 10 June, while adding that exports of pork, beef and cotton had matched or exceeded the trend.

With China pledging to increase US farm good purchases to US$40bn/year for 2020 and 2021 in its Phase One trade deal with the USA, the USDA said it expected a sharp rise in purchase over the next few months.

“The China agreement is over a calendar year agreement, so we would expect to see a number of purchases occurring in the fourth quarter of 2020,” said Robert Johansson, chief economist of the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service Division.

The news that China was falling behind its trade deal commitments could be seen against a backdrop of rising political tensions with the USA following President Donald Trump’s criticism of China for its Hong Kong security law and handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

China, meanwhile, had reportedly ordered its state-owned enterprises to stop buying US soyabeans but this had been denied by the Chinese media and the country had continued to make purchases from the USA.

According to Pieterson Institute of International Economics, China had - up to April - purchased US$26bn worth of US goods based in Chinese import figures, which translated into US$20bn when based on US exports.

Of that, agriculture accounted for US$6.3bn, well below the $36.6bn commitment for 2020.

The USDA said it was monitoring the deals closely.