May 17, 2019 / 3:40 PM / 2 months ago

Brazil rides wave of soybean sales to China as U.S. trade war rages

SAO PAULO, May 17 (Reuters) - Soybean trading in Brazil has gained momentum in recent days, driven by a wave of Chinese demand, boosting prices and premiums paid at ports amid a weakening of the Brazilian currency, according to analysts.

An estimated 5.5 million tonnes of soybeans have traded over the past few days, and are slated to leave Brazilian ports in June, July and August, according to estimates by the Center for Advanced Studies in Applied Economics (Cepea) issued on Friday.

The boost in trading has been driven by the failure of the Washington and Beijing to resolve their longstanding trade dispute, which made China turn to Brazil for soybean supplies, the analysts said.

Chinese demand also comes at a time when the U.S. dollar hit the highest against the Brazilian currency in more than seven months, boosting the value of Brazilian soybean exports when translated into reais.

“There has been an important, interesting turn of events,” said Lucílio Alves, a Cepea researcher, referring to the escalation of the trade war. With the weakening of the Brazilian currency making imports cheaper from the point of view of the Chinese buyer, demand has shifted there, he said.

The U.S. dollar has risen more than 3 percent against the Brazilian real for the week, reflecting domestic political turmoil and global uncertainties spurred by the trade war.

“Soy prices had been steadily falling but have now recovered well,” noted the Cepea researcher.

The price for shipping soybeans out of the Port of Paranaguá rose from $326.48 per tonne in early May to $345.68 per tonne free-on-board for shipment in June, according to Cepea.

Paranaguá June port premiums rose to $1 per bushel, the highest value since early December 2018 and more than double the levels seen earlier in the month.

According to T&F Consultoria, Brazilian farmers traded in more than 700,000 tonnes of soybeans on Thursday alone, with half coming from Mato Grosso state.

“Traders are saying the market is very frantic this week,” said Luiz Pacheco, an analyst with T&F Consultoria.

Brazil is at the peak of the exporting season, right after farmers finished collecting the country’s second largest crop in its history, estimated at over 114 million tonnes, according to government data.

“With the harvesting over, and considering some producers were hoarding grains, this might be a good time to lock in trades,” Alves said. (Reporting by Roberto Samora; Writing by Ana Mano; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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