A leading Chinese soy buyer is trying to resell cargoes set to be exported from South America in April and May as bird flu outbreaks reduce demand, hoping that the United States will take the shipments, said an executive at the firm.

The company is in talks to resell five or six cargoes from Brazil, equivalent to about 360,000 tonnes of soybeans, to the U.S. market, where stocks have been tight due to a savage winter and earlier brisk purchases by China, said the source, speaking on condition his firm would not be identified.

"We are still negotiating prices. I think all of the cargoes can be sold to the U.S. market - it is just a matter of price," said the executive, adding that the company had already resold four South American cargoes for late-March shipment to the United States. Cargoes typically contain 55,000-60,000 tonnes.

Extra supply in the United States could take the edge off Chicago Board of Trade May soybean prices that have climbed around 3 percent in the last two days.

Buyers in China, the world's top soy importer, have previously cancelled up to 600,000 tonnes of South American soy cargoes for shipment between March and May because of negative crushing margins amid weak demand, traders said last week.

The executive said that by selling to the U.S. market, it would curb losses to below 100 yuan ($16.14) per tonne, compared to about 600-700 yuan when selling at current prices in the domestic market.

The United States and Brazil are the world's top two suppliers of soybeans, with China purchasing about 60 percent of total globally traded volumes.

China normally turns to South America for its soybean supplies from February, but due to worries over congested ports and a delayed harvest in Brazil, China overbooked cargoes from the U.S. for the month and March.

Outbreak

Chinese demand for soymeal, used in poultry feed and the main product made from soybeans, has been hit by outbreaks of bird flu, cutting appetite by as much as 20 to 30 percent in the February-March period compared with normal months, analysts said.

An outbreak of bird flu in southern Guangdong province in January forced chicken farms to scale back on restocking, following huge losses last year after the culling of millions of birds.

China's soy imports in the first quarter of the year are forecast to hit a record quarterly figure at nearly 16 million tonnes due to large imports from the United States, according to the China National Grain and Oils Information Centre (CNGOIC).

"We cannot cancel U.S. cargoes which are already floating on the sea," said the executive.

He added that Chinese buyers had been trying to delay delivery of as many as 30 South American cargoes by a month from March onwards.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier in the month cut its estimate of U.S. ending stocks of soybeans after U.S. supplies dominated the export market for longer than usual this year due to delays in the South American harvest.