US soybean exports need 'record pace' as woes mount: USDA

13 Feb 2018 | Tim Worledge

US soybean exports will need to maintain a record pace and grapple with declining protein content in order to meet export forecasts, the USDA’s monthly oil crops outlook report says.

The report, released late Monday, acknowledges that the revised export target of 2.1 billion bushels requires a Herculean effort from the industry, even with 60 million bushels shaved off between the January and February WASDE.

As of February 2, cumulative export inspections totalled 1.275 billion bushels, 212 million bushels off the pace seen at the same stage of the previous year.

Citing data from a 2017 survey undertaken by the US Soybean Export Council, the average protein concentration was 34.1%, 0.4 of a percentage point below the 2016 level and 1 percentage point below the 30-year average.

Protein content is key in animal feeds, and US levels already set US crops at a disadvantage versus South American beans, which often offer superior protein levels.

South America in the driving seat
Competition from Brazil has also slammed US exports, with huge supply from the country meaning it was able to supply for longer.

In combination, the US is likely to see its domestic stocks swell to 530 million bushels – a view acknowledged in the February WASDE.

Although Brazil is on course for a near-record crop, weather issues have dogged Argentina’s output and continue to provide support to soybean prices globally.