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The seaborne soybean trade could be set for a challenging short-term period, as harvest delays seem to be affecting available for export supply. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Intermodal said that “the short-term outlook of the global soybean market is currently pivoted by a combination of weather patterns that are affecting the harvest progress, as well as tensions in diplomatic relations between China and the US which could result in trade disruptions. According to USDA, global production of soybeans for the 2022/23 season is forecast at 385.04 million tons, up 7.6% y-o-y. Meanwhile, China’s highly anticipated recovery will also be reflected in the normalization of the country’s soybean consumption and imports after falling for two consecutive years. More specifically, according to Casde’s (China Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates) latest estimates, the country’s imports for 2023 are projected to grow 8.3% y-o-y to 95.2 million tons”.

Source: Intermodal

According to Intermodal’s Research Analyst, Ms. Chara Georgousi, “in Brazil, the harvest season is currently ongoing. However, the country’s highly anticipated monster crop is dampened by harvest delays due to unfavorable weather conditions. According to CONAB, Brazil’s soybeans were 15.4% harvested nationally on Feb-13, which is well behind last year’s pace of 25%. Overall, Brazil’s soybean output is projected slightly lower than previous forecasts at 154.0 million tons amid harvest delays and lower quality caused by adverse wet weather in significant Central-West and Southeast regions. Soybean exports are forecast at 92.8 million tons. Harvest delays have resulted in lower exports to China during January and February. Chinese imports from Brazil are estimated to recover from mid-April when the record crop will start making its way to the country”.

“In the US, following unusually low temperatures registered in mid-October across the soy belt, the favorable weather conditions during the late season and the current rapid progress of the harvest are estimated to result in healthy production of 4.33 billion bushels, slightly above last season’s output of 4.14 billion bushels, according to USDA forecasts, while exports are estimated at 1.99 billion bushels. Following a slow start to the season, US exports have taken off in January as Brazil is in the early stages of collecting its record harvest. US exports to China are buoyed by a bullish combination of delayed harvest in Brazil and a historic drought in Argentina resulting in lower yields. In January, the US exported 5.5 million tons to China, a figure that stands 33.7% above the 5-year average. In February, exports will remain firm according to our data, close to the 5-year high. Even if US exports slow down when Brazil’s harvest progresses, total bookings are enough to maintain at least moderate shipments in the short term. However, fears are lingering following the shoot-down of the Chinese balloon earlier this month which could possibly create tensions and disrupt current purchases”, Georgousi said.

Source: Intermodal

She added that “in Argentina, total soybean output is forecast to be 40.6 million tons, down from 4.3 million tons in 2021/22, due to historically low vegetation levels across the Pampas, in what could be translated into the toughest growing season in history, especially for Santa Fe and Entre Rios. Given that the production damage from the early season delays will be felt soon and that a probable growth curve shift could cause crops to miss their ideal growing windows, the chances of a major yield recovery in these two crucial regions seem poor to none. The current unfavorable fundamentals will be reflected in limited soybean supply for export. More specifically, if unfavorable weather persists, the country could turn to the US for imports as it did in 2018 after experiencing similar weather conditions. In addition, the country has also reportedly purchased an unusual amount of 200,000-300,000 soybeans from Brazil, according to Anec”, Intermodal’s analyst concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

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