China's 2023 soybean imports see first yearly rise since 2020

12 Jan 2024 | Regina Koh

China’s soybean imports in December came in at 9.823 million mt, preliminary estimates from the country’s General Administration of Customs (GACC) showed Friday, bringing total soybean imports for 2023 to 99.4 million mt, 11.4% higher than 2022.

This marks the first year-on-year increase since 2020, where soybean imports rose to 100.3 million mt from 2019’s 88.5 million mt. 

Soybean imports in December were also 24% more than in November but 2.8% less than in December 2022.

The total volume in 2023 falls just shy of the record seen in 2020, with imports in December falling slightly below earlier market expectations of around 10-11 million mt, with the gap likely due to slower clearance at ports.

The higher overall volume comes following aggressive buying from Chinese importers amid lower-priced beans from Brazil with the South American supplier facing a bumper harvest in 2023.

Meanwhile, China imported 18.3 million mt of grains in December, a 25.8% increase from November, bringing total grain imports for 2023 to 161.96 million mt – 11.7% higher than a year ago – with the rise likely stemming from an increase in wheat, corn and barley imports.

China also imported 811,000 mt of edible vegetable oil in December, 12.2% less than the previous month, GACC estimates showed, bringing total imports for 2023 to 9.81 million mt, a 51.4% increase from a year ago.

Lastly, China’s customs cleared 566,000 mt of meat in December, with total meat imports for 2023 coming to 7.38 million mt.