* China soybean imports at 7.66 mln T in Jan
* Imports are highest ever for the month since at least 2010
* Demand rises on strong crushing margins (Adds details and comments)
BEIJING, Feb 10 (Reuters) - China, the world’s top soy buyer, imported 7.66 million tonnes of soybeans in January, the highest for the month since at least 2010, customs data showed on Friday, as delayed shipments arrived during the month and crushing demand remained strong.
Imports were down 15 percent from last month’s 9 million tonnes, but up 35 percent from a year ago, figures from the General Administration of Customs showed.
“In the last quarter of 2016, crushers signed many forward contracts due to delayed shipments of imports and domestic logistic problems, which is now shown in the imports data,” said Monica Tu, an analyst from Shanghai-based consultants JC Intelligence Co (JCI). “Also as crushing margins are good, demand for imports from crushers remains strong.”
Crushing production capacity has been rising since late last year, mainly prompted by good crushing margins, pushing up imports, according to analysts.
The soybean crush margin at China’s Dalian port was at 106 yuan ($15.41) per tonne on Friday, picking up after the spring festival holiday. Though down from 297 yuan in December, the most in more than 4 years, it is still higher than 85 yuan a year ago. CNSOY-DLN-MRG
“The crush was very good in the period and the U.S. premium was low. Meal and oil basis in China was very high, so the crushers were very active in buying,” said a senior China-based soy trader.
Imports will remain high in the next couple of months compared with previous years, as crushing margins keep rising, according to JCI forecasts.
$1 = 6.8765 Chinese yuan renminbi Reporting by Hallie Gu and Dominique Patton; Editing by Christian Schmollinger