Chinese companies signed agreements with U.S. agricultural exporters on Monday to buy 4.83 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans valued at about $2.8 billion.
At a ceremony hosted by the U.S. Soybean Export Council, officials from Chinese companies including COFCO, Sinograin, and Chinatex signed 13 separate agreements with representatives from Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, Columbia Grain and others.
The soybeans will be shipped in the current marketing year, which began on Sept. 1, and likely before the next South American crop begins flooding the market in March, said a trader at the event.
The letters of intent signed on Monday are not binding sales contracts but are traditionally honored by established trading partners such as China and the United States, he said. The value of the deals was estimated as the final terms will be negotiated at a later date.
Still, some exporters declared the agreements to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which are then reported as confirmed sales per daily reporting rules. Signing ceremonies in 2011 and 2012 triggered confirmations by the USDA of the two largest single-day U.S. soybean sales on record.
The volume of the purchase agreements signed on Monday is a fraction of China's annual U.S. soybean demand.
China, the world's top soybean importer, bought more than 21.5 million tonnes of the oilseed from the United States last season and 59.5 million tonnes from all origins. Imports from all origins this season were forecast by the USDA at 69 million tonnes, the tenth consecutive annual increase.