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Soybeans Flat As Investors Weigh Demand Concerns, Tariff Threats

May 5, 2020 at 16:51 by Andrew Moran

Soybean futures are trading relatively flat on Tuesday as commodity investors weigh demand concerns and a renewed trade spat between the US and China. Despite Beijing placing more soybean orders from the US and Brazil, there are fears that demand may not be enough due to meat-packing facility closures.

July soybean futures edged up $0.015, or 0.18%, to $8.38 per bushel at 16:26 GMT on Tuesday on the Chicago Board of Trade (CBoT). Soybean prices have been hammered year-to-date, sliding more than 12%.

Across the US, a growing number of meat-packing plants have temporarily shut down operations due to workers contracting the coronavirus. The White House ordered these companies to reopen as to not affect the supply chain, but industry observers are still warning that there could be disruptions as supplies are unable to meet the heavy demand.

According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Chinese importers bought 378,000 tons of American soybeans: 136,000 tons for delivery in the 2019–2020 marketing year and 242,000 ton for the 2020–2021 season. Beijing has ramped up its purchases of US soybeans, lifting export sales to more than 618,000 tons in the week ending April 23.

But this comes as President Donald Trump revealed that the phase one trade deal, and subsequent negotiations for the second round of talks, was of secondary importance to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more than a week, the president has hinted that his administration could slap import levies on Chinese goods, a move that could reignite a trade dispute. In January, the two economies curtailed the trade war after 18 months of retaliatory tariffs.

These concerns have been amplified after the Commerce and State Departments were ordered to look for ways to encourage American businesses to move both sourcing and manufacturing out of China.

New government data suggests that Brazil is poised to hit a new soybean export record in April. The South American country exported 16.3 million tons last month, a 9.4 million increase from the same time a year ago. The previous monthly export record took place in May 2018 when soybean shipments topped 12.3 million tons.

Argentina is trying to boost its sales, despite the government imposing taxes on exports. The Buenos Aires Grains Exchange confirmed in a recent report that farmers had harvested 68.2% of this season’s soy crop, and industry observers anticipate 49.5 million tons soybeans will be harvested this year.

In other agricultural commodities, June corn futures picked up $0.025, or 0.79%, to $3.1775 per pound. June wheat futures were flat at $5.2025 a bushel. July orange juice futures dipped $0.007, or 0.6%, to $1.161 per pound.

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