A global shipping container squeeze is affecting US soyabean exports, according to a Freight Waves report on 25 July.

While soyabeans and other US commodities such as corn, citrus and poultry were experiencing stronger export volumes this year, the global shipping container squeeze was affecting domestic agriculture exports, Soybean Transportation Coalition executive director Mike Steenhoek told Freight Waves.

As of 15 July, the cost to move a loaded container from China to the US West Coast had a spot rate of US$6,542, according to the Freightos Baltic Index, while the cost to move loaded containers from the US West Coast back to China was US$1,112.

“The container situation has affected us, though only about 7% to 8% of soyabean exports occur by container. We’re still primarily a bulk exporter,” Steenhoek was quoted as saying.

“It is certainly having an impact on bulk exports. Those soyabean exporters who use containers, we have a supply chain that’s overly subscribed. It really isn’t just felt with containers, but also things like available slots on the vessels themselves.”

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s quarterly trade forecast projected US farm exports in fiscal year 2021 to reach US$164bn – which would be the highest total on record, according to the report.

China was projected to be the top agricultural export customer at a record US$35bn, with the growth led by Chinese demand for soyabeans and corn, the report said.

“China is by far our number one customer for soyabeans,” Steenhoek told Freight Waves.

Steenhoek told Freight Waves that he expected the supply chain issues for exporters to continue for the foreseeable future, including the container squeeze and rail availability, as well as the nationwide shortage of truck drivers.

“Every link in our supply chain is under stress right now,” he was quoted as saying.

In 2020, the USA sent US$26.5bn in agricultural exports to China, including US$14.1bn in soyabeans, the report said.

Canada was the second largest importer of US agricultural commodities in 2020, accounting for US$22.1bn, including US$2.1bn in soyabeans, Freight Waves wrote, with Mexico third, at US$18.4bn and US£2.7bn in soyabeans.