China’s soybean purchase just a drop in the U.S. export bucket

So far this year, American farmers have sold some 8.2 million metric tons of soybeans to China, down from 21.4 million metric tons during the same period in 2017, according to the latest USDA figures. For the month of October, soybean sales to China fell from 7.1 million metric tons last year to just 300,000 metric tons this year.

U.S. soybean farmers have made some strides in finding new markets, but export shipments in October were a little more than half the level seen last October.

China last year purchased about 60 percent of U.S. soybean exports in deals valued at more than $12 billion. With those exports gone, soybean prices had tumbled to their lowest in a decade, heaping pain on U.S. farmers, a key Trump constituency.

U.S. soybean farmers have largely stood by the president in his efforts to put pressure China on its trade policies. Congressional districts that encompass much of American soybean production largely elected Republicans during the latest midterm elections. But Democrats narrowed the margins of victory in many of those districts.

For its part, China faces shortages of soybeans if it can’t find sufficient supplies from other producers. In September, Chinese officials floated the idea of cutting the soy ration for hogs to reduce domestic demand.

China slapped a 25 percent tariff on U.S. soybean imports after the Trump administration imposed 10 percent tariffs on some $250 billion of Chinese goods. Trump had threatened to boost those tariffs to 25 percent next month, but recently agreed to postpone the increase for 90 days after meeting with Xi at a recently gathering of world leaders in Argentina.

After months of stonewalling from both sides, Washington and Beijing have agreed to negotiate for those 90 days over increased Chinese purchases of American farm and energy commodities, an end to forced technology transfers and stronger protections for U.S. intellectual property n China.

Trump said on Tuesday that those negotiations were already taking place by telephone.

“We’ll probably have another meeting. And maybe a meeting of the top people on both sides,” Trump said. “If it’s necessary, I’ll have another meeting with President Xi, who I like a lot and get along with very well.”

Trump did not offer any timetable for further face-to-face meetings among U.S. and Chinese officials.

He said he would wait to increase tariffs on Chinese goods to 25 percent from 10 percent until it becomes apparent whether the United States and China can make a deal.

(Reuters contributed to this article.)

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