SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL — Brazil, the world’s largest soybean exporter, shipped 11.6 million tonnes of soybeans in March, a 38% increase from the same month in 2019, according to a report from Brazil’s foreign trade department.

Exports in March to China, Brazil’s biggest customer and the world’s largest consumer of soybeans, rose more than 40% year on year.

The increase in soybean shipments and purchases comes amid mounting concerns about the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on grain shipments should the number of cases and deaths continue to grow in the coming weeks.

In late March, the Brazilian farm town Canarana, in Mato Grosso state, issued a decree halting operations in most industries to contain the spread of COVID-19, which included a ban on global trading companies shipping grains out of the city.

The city reversed the decree last week after a meeting with the farmers union.

Also, other countries such as Russia and Ukraine have signaled that they plan to cut back on grain exports during the pandemic to ensure an ample supply of grains for their domestic markets.

The Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture forecast Brazil’s 2019-20 soybean export total at 77 million tonnes, which would be a 3% increase from the previous year.

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