China imported a record 100.85M tonnes of soyabeans in the 2022/23 marketing year (MY) due to increased shipments from Brazil, according to a report by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The increase in soyabean imports reflected recovering demand for soyabean meal in the swine and poultry sectors, as well as increased demand for vegetable oil in the food service sector, the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS)’s 6 November report said.

“The record level of imports also demonstrates China's willingness to secure soyabeans when global supplies are ample, particularly from Brazil – China’s largest supplier of soyabeans. Supporting demand for Brazilian soyabeans, which had a record harvest in 2023, is key to China’s policy of diversifying the origins of its soyabean imports,” the USDA said.

In the 2022/23 MY, China imported 30.3M tonnes of soyabeans from the USA, representing a 4.2% increase in volume compared to the previous marketing year. The US market share was 30%, slightly down from the 32% in the previous year.

Soyabean imports from Brazil totalled 62.8M tonnes, a substantial increase compared to the previous year and accounting for 62.2% of China’s total soyabean imports.

Imports were expected to reach similar levels – 100M tonnes compared to the earlier forecast of 98.5M tonnes in the 2023/24 MY due to sustained demand from the feed sector.

“This increase is based on expectations of adequate supplies, slight demand growth for soyabean meal in the swine and poultry industry as animal production modestly increases, and increased demand for vegetable oil in the food sector. Import growth is anticipated to be partially constrained by higher domestic soyabean production and sales of state reserve soyabeans,” the USDA said.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s efforts to promote domestic soyabean production by a range of local and national policies continued to support production although lower prices for soyabeans for food use could hold back sustained higher volumes, the report said.

After reaching a record 5.3M tonnes in the 2022/23 MY, rapeseed imports were forecast to decline to 4M tonnes due to high carry-in stocks, according to the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) China – Oilseeds and Products Update.

The USDA forecast total Chinese oilseed production in the 2023/24 MY at 65.3M tonnes, a slight increase from the 64.6M tonnes projected for the 2022/23 MY.

Forecast soyabean production for the 2023/24 MY remained unchanged at 19.7M tonnes from the USDA’s previous estimate. Production was based on a stable planted area of 10.05M ha and a slight yield drop due to flooding and other impacts from heavy rainfall in late July and early August.

The USDA maintained its forecast for the country’s rapeseed production in 2023/24 at 15.4M tonnes.

Total oilseed crushing for the 2023/24 MY was increased to 135M tonnes from the previous estimate of 134M tonnes.

The USDA increased its projection for soyabean crushing in the 2023/24 MY to 96M tonnes from the previous estimate of 94M tonnes.

“This reflects a moderate expansion in demand for soyabean products, ample soyabean supply and relatively low soyabean meal prices compared to recent highs,” the USDA said.

Rapeseed crushing in the 2023/24 was forecast at 19M tonnes, unchanged from the USDA’s previous report and the estimate for the 2022/23 MY.