BEIJING, Jan 14 (Reuters) - China’s December soybean imports fell 40.1 percent from a year earlier to 5.72 million tonnes, customs data showed on Monday, as purchases from the United States dropped due to higher tariffs.
For all of 2018, imports fell for the first time since 2011 because of the higher tariffs China levied on U.S. supplies amid the trade war between the two countries.
Soybean imports last year fell 7.9 percent to 88.03 million tonnes, said the General Administration of Customs, after Beijing increased the tariffs on the U.S. imports, curbing the soybean trade with its second-largest supplier.
China, the world’s top soybean buyer, usually sources the bulk of its oilseed imports from the U.S. in the final quarter of the year when the U.S. harvest comes to market.
But, soybean imports from the U.S. plunged to zero in November.
December’s imports were only slightly above the 5.38 million tonnes imported in November and below expected volumes of around 6.5 million tonnes, said Monica Tu, analyst at Shanghai JC Intelligence Co Ltd.
Chinese buyers have been relying on bean stocks in Brazil, its top supplier of the oilseed, in the fourth quarter due to the Sino-U.S. trade war.
But, supplies appear to have cleared more slowly through ports, said Tu, while domestic demand has also been weak, with soymeal alternatives in the market increasing.
“It’s the broader environment and the trade war,” said Tu. (Reporting by Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)