China is expected to import a record high of 100M tonnes of soyabeans in 2020, AgriCensus reported a US Soybean Export Council (USSEC) director as saying at an industry event on 17 November.

The forecast was made against a backdrop of weak global demand amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and lingering US-China tension.

China was likely to import an all-time high level of soyabeans in 2020, exceeding the previous record of 95.54M tonnes imported in 2017, according to China Customs data.

“Soyabean imports this year are likely to hit more than 98M tonnes, probably close to 100M tonnes,” said Zhang Xiaoping, a director at USSEC, during the Global Grains conference.

Between January and October this year, China had already imported 83.21M tonnes of soyabeans, according to trade data collected by AgriCensus.

The increase in soyabean imports coincided with the consolidation of the country’s pig-producing sector following the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak.

ASF was the main factor influencing China’s pork market and animal feed demand, Zhang said, with COVID-19 having a limited impact.

Scaled farming was expected to account for more than 60% of China’s hog production in the next five years as small farmers exited the market due to financial losses caused by ASF, AgriCensus said.

This would lead to a rise in soyabean imports to produce animal feed for those scaled farms rather than small farms that had fed pigs with food waste.