April 10, 2018 / 4:53 AM / 14 days ago

UPDATE 2-Beijing to watch soybean supplies closely as tariff plan triggers price surge

    * Domestic industry 'highly concerned' about U.S. dispute
-agmin
    * Crush margins soar as soymeal prices hit record highs 
    * Agmin sees no impact from soybean tariffs in near-term
    * Still watching impact on supplies for rest of the year
    * Agmin expects healthy demand at state corn auctions

 (Adds detail on corn price and sugar crop. Adds table)
    By Dominique Patton
    BEIJING, April 10 (Reuters) - China's agriculture ministry
said on Tuesday it expects soybean supplies to be "basically
normal" in the short-term after Beijing proposed a 25 percent
tariff on U.S. imports, but it will monitor the impact for the
rest of the year. 
    In its first official comment on the issue, the Ministry of
Agriculture and Rural Affairs acknowledged in its monthly crop
report that the domestic market is "highly concerned" about the
escalating trade friction with the United States. 
    It also noted that South America is China's main supplier
during the first part of the year. 
    However, "further developments and the impact on supply and
demand for the whole year must continue to be monitored," it
said, in an acknowledgement of the planned 25 percent tariff on
soybeans from the United States, China's No. 2 supplier. 
    The proposed tariffs are in retaliation for recent
aggressive U.S. trade actions amid an escalating trade dispute
between the world's top two economies. 
    The ministry comments come as soybean processing margins
have rocketed, with prices for meal and soybeans surging
following news of the tariff plan, stirring concerns about the
impact of the dispute on a critical agricultural sector.
 
    Animal feed makers worry it will inflate their costs and
increase retail meat prices in the world's top pork consumer. 
    China imports about $40 billion in soybeans a year, which
are crushed to make meal for use in animal food and oil for
cooking. About a third of its imports come from the United
States. 
    Without a timeframe for the tariffs, and proposed talks
between the U.S. and China now on the table, there is still a
great deal of uncertainty in the market, say analysts. 
    The ministry did not change its forecast for soybean imports
in the 2017/18 crop year, and has not yet issued an outlook for
the following year. 
    The ministry also said state corn sales to begin this week
would curb rising prices for the grain in the near-term but that
the impact would be limited, with demand from processors
expected to be healthy. 
    Average wholesale corn prices during the 2017/18 year are
seen remaining between 1,600 yuan and 1,700 yuan per tonne. 
    The report also lowered the forecast for sugar output in
2017/18 by 50,000 tonnes to 10.25 million tonnes, largely due to
a decline in yields in major growing region Guangxi. 
    While the drop in output will increase China's sugar
deficit, global prices are at a 2-1/2-year low, and the impact
on domestic prices needs to be watched, it said. 
    Signs of drought in Yunnan province, the second-largest 
production region after Guangxi, has raised concerns about an
impact on future cane planting and the emergence of seedlings. 
    
           2015/2016   2016/2017  2017/2018  2017/2018  Percentage
           (estimate)   (April     (March     (April      change
                       estimate)  forecast)  forecast)  
   Corn                                                      
 Planted     38.12       36.77      35.45      35.45        0%
 acreage                                                
   (mln                                                 
 hectares                                               
    )                                                   
  Output     224.63     219.55     215.89     215.89      0.00%
   (mln                                                 
 tonnes)                                                
 Imports      3.17       2.46       1.50       1.50       0.00%
   (mln                                                 
 tonnes)                                                
  Ending     33.70       11.21      -6.72      -6.72         
  Stocks                                                
   (mln                                                 
 tonnes)                                                
 Soybean                                                     
 Planted      6.59       7.21       8.10       8.10       0.00%
 acreage                                                
   (mln                                                 
 hectares                                               
    )                                                   
  Output     11.61       12.94      14.60      14.60      0.00%
   (mln                                                 
 tonnes)                                                
 Imports     83.23       93.49      95.97      95.97      0.00%
   (mln                                                 
 tonnes)                                                
  Ending     -1.95       -1.80      -0.22      -0.22         
  Stocks                                                
   (mln                                                 
 tonnes)                                                
  Cotton                                                     
 Planted      3.27       3.10       3.35       3.35       0.00%
 acreage                                                
   (mln                                                 
 hectares                                               
    )                                                   
  Output      4.93       4.82       5.89       5.89       0.00%
   (mln                                                 
 tonnes)                                                
 Imports      0.96       1.11       1.10       1.10       0.00%
   (mln                                                 
 tonnes)                                                
  Ending     11.11       8.75       7.52       7.52          
  Stocks                                                
   (mln                                                 
 tonnes)                                                
  Sugar                                                      
 Planted      1.42       1.40       1.46       1.46       0.00%
 acreage                                                
   (mln                                                 
 hectares                                               
    )                                                   
   Cane       1.30       1.23       1.27       1.27       0.00%
   Beet       0.13       0.17       0.19       0.19       0.00%
  Output      8.70       9.29       10.30      10.25      -0.49%
   (mln                                                 
 tonnes)                                                
   Cane       7.85       8.42       9.15       9.10       -0.55%
  sugar                                                 
   Beet       0.85       1.05       1.15       1.15       0.00%
  sugar                                                 
 Imports      3.73       2.29       3.20       3.20       0.00%
   (mln                                                 
 tonnes)                                                
  Ending     -2.92       -3.44      -1.62      -1.67         
  Stocks                                                
   (mln                                                 
 tonnes)                                                
  

 (Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Richard Pullin and
Tom Hogue)
  
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