By Mark Weinraub
CHICAGO, Aug 13 (Reuters) - The U.S. Agriculture Department on Thursday said Chinese buyers booked deals to buy 197,000 tonnes of U.S. soybeans, the seventh weekday in a row that the government has reported a sale to the world's top buyer of the oilseed.
In a separate report, USDA said weekly export sales of soybeans through Aug. 6 totaled 2.13 million tonnes, the most since November 2016.
USDA boosted its 2020/21 U.S. soybean export forecast by 75 million bushels to 2.125 billion bushels in its monthly World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates report it released on Wednesday.
The recent string of deals with China, which came even as tensions between Washington and Beijing have risen, has supported soybean prices despite massive U.S. harvest expectations. Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures rallied 1.6% to a 10-day high on Thursday morning.
"They have to continue to make these big purchase of beans just to meet the USDA's balance sheet of what is expected," said Dan Smith, senior risk manager at Top Third Ag Marketing.
China's soybean imports rose 18% this year through July versus a year ago, as large volumes of soybeans from Brazil arrived, according to Chinese customs data.
China also was a big buyer of U.S. sorghum and beef in the latest week. The total of 696,344 tonnes of sorghum was the biggest on record and beef sales of 1,927 tonnes were the most since 2002.
But China is still far behind the pace needed to meet its commitment of buying $36.5 billion worth of U.S. agricultural goods under a Phase 1 deal. The United States exported just $7.274 billion in agricultural goods to China in the first half of the year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The weekly U.S. government report also showed that pork export sales to China were a net negative 8,978 tonnes after cancellations. That was the smallest weekly total since mid-May.