Workers unload imported soybeans at a harbor in China. The country imported a record 54.8 million tons of soybeans in 2010, compared with 15.2 million tons of domestic production, General Administration of Customs data showed. [Photo / China Daily]
BEIJING – China’s soybean imports are expected to rise by 5 percent more than last year, increasing the attraction of the country to US soybean farmers, said Alan Kemper, president of the American Soybean Association.
The increase in the soybean trade may help promote China-US relationships, indicating a way to balance bilateral trade, Chinese experts said.
“China is the most important market for US soybeans, and the soybean trade will play a large role in improving the balance of China-US trade,” Kemper said.
China is the largest importer of US soybeans. It imported a quarter of the country’s domestic production last year, according to the association.
Zhang Monan, a researcher at the Economic Forecast Department of the State Information Center, said soybean trade between the two countries will help maintain a stable development in bilateral relations.
The US has heavily subsidized its agricultural sector, so it is important for the country to ensure profit margins in the global food market, Zhang said.
Given constraints over land and water resources, it is difficult for China to meet growing demand for agricultural products such as soybeans domestically. It can buy agricultural products with its bulky foreign reserves, she added.
If imports are to increase, it is not because of a decline in domestic production but because of growing demand, said Liu Denggao, vice-president of the China Soybean Industry Association.
“The size of the area where China’s soybeans are grown remains largely unchanged from last year,” Liu said.
Even with the fresh demand in China’s market, the competition is growing fiercer in the international market, as imports from South American countries such as Brazil and Argentina have also increased in recent years.
To consolidate its position, the US soybean industry will invest more than $2 million this year in China’s market, Kemper said.
The investment will finance programs teaching Chinese farmers efficient ways of using soybeans to improve the production of swine, poultry, dairy and other agricultural sectors, according to the association.
“These programs have been carried out for the last 30 years since we arrived in China,” said Marc Curtis, chairman of the United Soybean Board. “We will continue our efforts to serve China’s market.”
China imported a historic 54.8 million tons of soybeans in 2010, compared with 15.2 million tons of domestic production, General Administration of Customs data showed. The country’s self-sufficiency rate currently stands at 22 percent.
The imported soybeans are all genetically modified and mainly used as animal feed or for oil crushing.
Imports of soybeans to China declined by 1 percent year-on-year to 4.56 million tons in May. China’s soybean imports during the first five months of this year remain largely the same compared with the same period last year.