August 8, 2018 / 3:53 AM / 7 months ago

UPDATE 2-China's July soybean imports fall as pre-tariff buying ebbs

* Chinese buyers scooping up Brazilian beans on trade war worries

* China’s soymeal stockpiles reached record high in July

* Soy imports to remain around 8 mln tonnes in Aug and Sept - analyst (Adds analyst comment, detail)

BEIJING, Aug 8 (Reuters) - China’s soybean imports fell in July versus June, customs data showed on Wednesday, as processors slowed purchases after building up record inventory in preparation for the hefty import tariffs on U.S. shipments introduced last month.

China, the world’s largest soy buyer, imported 8.01 million tonnes of soybeans in July, down 8 percent from 8.70 million tonnes in June, figures from the General Administration of Customs of China showed.

The imports were down 20.6 percent from last year’s 10 million tonnes, the highest arrivals on record as ports at the time cleared a months-long backlog of cargoes.

“Chinese buyers have bought a lot of Brazilian beans to avoid an impact from the Sino-U.S. trade war...Pressure on the domestic stocks is high, so imports for July have come down a little,” said Tian Hao, senior analyst with First Futures.

Beijing imposed a 25 percent tariff on a list of American products totalling $34 billion, including soybeans, on July 6, in response to U.S. penalties on Chinese goods of a similar value.

Chinese firms have been heavy buyers of Brazilian beans in recent months in anticipation of Beijing’s imposition of tariffs. Large arrivals of the oilseed have led to record stockpiles of soymeal and driven crush margins into negative territory.

China imported 52.88 million tonnes of soybean in the first seven months of the year, the data showed, down 3.7 percent from last year’s 54.89 million tonnes.

“Imports in August and September are expected to be around 8 million tonnes as well. Inventories will stay at high levels,” Tian said.

China’s national soymeal stocks hit a record high at 1.27 million tonnes in early July.

Crushers in Rizhao, a major hub for soybean imports, currently lose 136 yuan ($19.94) for every tonne of the oilseed they crush. Profits have been negative since late April.

Soybeans, crushed to make cooking oil and the protein-rich animal feed ingredient soymeal, were the biggest U.S. agriculture export to China last year at a value of $12.3 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

China, which imports 60 percent of the soybeans traded worldwide, bought 32.9 million tonnes from the United States in 2017, accounting for 34 percent of its total purchases.

Imports of vegetable oils in July were 506,000 tonnes, down 2.7 percent from the previous month but up 87.4 percent from a year ago.

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$1 = 6.8217 Chinese yuan renminbi Reporting by Hallie Gu and Josephine Mason; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Eric Meijer

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