According to Reuters, China has asked trading firms and food processors to boost inventories of grains and oilseeds as a possible second wave of coronavirus cases and worsening infection rates elsewhere raise concerns about global supply lines.
Both state-run and private grain traders as well as food producers were urged to procure higher volumes of soybeans, soy oil, and corn during calls with China’s Ministry of Commerce in recent days, three trade sources told Reuters.
Brazil is China’s main supplier of soybeans and a key meat exporter. The reduced workforce in Brazil due to the pandemic, in addition to heavy rains, caused shipments of soybeans to be delayed in March and April, and resulted in Chinese soy inventories plunging to record lows. Arrivals from Brazil have since rebounded, but authorities remain wary of fresh disruptions.
China is under pressure to buy more U.S. farm products under a trade deal signed between Washington and Beijing in January, and trade sources expect more of China’s crops to come from the United States once the South American export season ends and the North American harvests approach in the autumn.
U.S. crop export sales data show that Chinese buyers have accelerated soybean purchases of the upcoming crop, with new crop bookings of 374,000 tons already registered, compared with an average of 60,000 tons for this period since 2016.
China is also a top meat importer and is facing a large domestic supply shortfall following an outbreak of African swine fever that has decimated its pig herd, the world’s largest. Imports from the United States—the top global pork exporter—had been expected to surge as a result, but widespread COVID-19 outbreaks at U.S. slaughterhouses and processing plants have cut national meat output.
China has booked a record volume of U.S. pork shipments already this year, raising concerns about fresh tensions between the countries if U.S. meat production problems curb domestic supplies at a time when shipments to China remain strong.