Is the US Importing South American Soybeans?
Mar 06, 2014
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It seems likely that the USDA will have to increase export demand for soybeans on Monday's WASDE report. To keep ending stocks near pipeline supplies they will also likely increase US imports of soybeans as well. The question is where do they come up with this number as there is no reported import data.
Record US export sales are threatening to run the US out of soybeans this year and the market has reacted with higher prices in an attempt to price ration demand. However, it is likely that the USDA will still show a record world carry over number in soybeans despite the possibility of a slight reduction in South American production. This would suggest that US imports of South American soybeans on a bigger scale then seen in the past are possible or even likely. And, the USDA has acknowledged this by increasing imports on the last two reports. But, where are they getting this data?
Currently we talk about US exports twice a week with Monday's export inspections report and Thursday's export sales reports. But, there is not currently a reporting system for US imports, at least not one that is made public. In years past this may not have been a big deal as the US has not been a major importer. However, things may be different this year and could be in years to come. It may be time to set up a reporting system for imports similar to what we have in place for exports.
To some extent it is an unbalanced view of the market, especially this year when big South American imports are a real possibility. We see big export numbers and it seems like the US will run out of soybeans. But with a potentially record world carry over the global situation does not seem nearly as dire as the domestic situation. And, if it is true that there will be so many soybeans in the world this year it seems likely that the US will import more then in years past, especially if domestic prices stay elevated. We have even heard talk from industry men that there already have been more South American soybeans imported to the US then the current USDA projection. So again, how does the USDA know where we actually stand? Is there a system in place for accounting for imports or is it simply a best guess scenario?
The lack of a public reporting system for imports may actually be a boon for producers too. As we start putting together our planting intentions this year it is tempting to make a switch to soybeans based on the recent strength. However, if there are or will be imports on a larger scale then the carry over situation may not be nearly as tight as the market is currently perceiving and could lead to a sharp drop in prices when this becomes known to the market.
So, if we are actually going to have bigger South American imports to the US this year when will the market see this? That is a good question because we are kind of left in the dark when it comes to imports, but we will see what the USDA has to say on the matter on Monday's WASDE report. However, we may not know the full extent until later. The March 31st Quarterly Grain stocks report could show higher stocks then expected (similar to corn last year) and this would likely be a reflection of imports. But we may not actually get the full picture until the June 30th grain stocks report. If this is the case it could potentially set the market up for a big surprise in the middle of the growing season.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the USDA handles the balance sheet on Monday, and it sets us up for some potentially interesting reports for months to come. At this point it may be easier and more beneficial to the market to set up an import reporting system. At least that way we would get to see both sides of the story.
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