By Hallie Gu and Shivani Singh
BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s soy imports were down 30% in September from the same month a year earlier and hit the lowest rate for the month since 2014, customs data showed on Wednesday, when margins of weak crushing constrained demand.
China, the world’s largest soybean buyer, brought 6.88 million tonnes of the oilseed in September, compared to 9.79 million tonnes last year, according to data from the General Administration of Customs.
“The numbers are within market expectations,” said an industry source, who declined to be identified as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
“Crushing margins were poor, while some processors also suspended operation for regular maintenance,” the source says.
Chinese processors increased soybean purchases at the beginning of the year, anticipating strong demand to feed the rapidly recovering swine herd.
But demand has started to weaken as falling margins in the pork sector put pressure on oilseed crush margins.
Pork margins in Sichuan, one of the main animal-producing regions, have plummeted by nearly 3,000 yuan this year and were at 285 yuan (less than $44.22) per hog on Tuesday.
Imports in September were also down from August’s 9.49mt, customs data showed.
China imported 73.97 million tons of soybeans in the first nine months of the year, down 0.7% from the same period last year, according to the data.
Landings in October are also likely to be lower than a year earlier as low margins continue to constrain purchases, while sluggish US exports due to Hurricane Ida will also reduce arrivals, traders say.
Despite this, soybean meal spot prices rose after recent large-scale power cuts forced some processors to close in recent weeks, which also supported crush margins.
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