U.S. soybean sales to China fall to lowest in nearly six months

WASDE Report and China 030920
Farmers unload soybeans as they try to make a profit. ( Betsy Jibben )

CHICAGO, March 5 (Reuters) - U.S. exporters sold just 6,012 tonnes of soybeans to China in the week ended Feb. 27, despite Phase 1 of the U.S.-China trade pact going into effect the prior week, U.S. government data showed on Thursday.

The weekly total was the lowest since the week ended Sept. 5, when China's net sales came in at -2,727 tonnes due to cancellations of previously booked deals.

The weekly U.S. Agriculture Department report also showed that shipments to China of previously booked soybeans totaled 132,012 tonnes, about two cargoes worth.

An unknown buyer canceled deals worth 135,200 tonnes of soybeans. Traders said that China is often the country listed as unknown.

The market has been on the lookout for any washed sales to China due to the spread of the coronavirus.

At 8:43 a.m. CST (1443 GMT), Chicago Board of Trade May soybean futures were down 4 cents at $9.03-1/4 a bushel.

So far this year, soybean export sales to China have totaled just 1.13 million tonnes, down from 5.08 million tonnes in the comparable period of 2019, according to USDA data. In the first two months of 2017, before the trade war started, Chinese purchases of U.S. soybeans were 2.83 million tonnes.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday predicted China will come into the U.S. market for soybeans in late spring and summer.

China promised to buy at least an additional $12.5 billion worth of U.S. farm products in 2020 and at least $19.5 billion in 2021 over the 2017 level of $24 billion as part of the deal signed in mid-January.

The weekly USDA report also showed that China bought 69,300 tonnes of sorghum and 4,500 tonnes of pork. 

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