BEIJING, CHINA — After slumping slightly last year, Chinese soybean imports are forecast to increase 3% to a record 101 million tonnes in the 2021-22 marketing year, according to a Global Agricultural Information Network report from the US Department of Agriculture. 

The increase is due to China’s growing soybean meal feed use, reduced soybean production and limited imports of rapeseed, according to the report.

Based on surveys conducted by China’s Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs, in the first seven months of 2021, total feed production rose by nearly 20% year-on-year, to 164.9 million tonnes.

“Higher feed production is expected for the remainder of the calendar year 2021 and into 2022 as changes in the livestock and poultry industry drive moderate growth of soybean meal use,” the USDA said in the report.

The report noted that 2021-22 soybean production in China is forecast to decline by 600,000 tonnes as producers opted for increased corn plantings.

“According to industry sources, the sharp increase in corn prices in 2020 and 2021 has increased corn acreage at the expense of soybeans, particularly in the northeast provinces,” the USDA said. “Although both corn and soybean prices increased until the sowing season, the expected return on corn is more than double that of soybeans based on an estimated per unit yield of corn being 3.5 times that of soybeans.”

In 2020-21, China accounted for nearly 60% of the world’s soybean imports and led the world in soybean meal production with 74.4 million tonnes, easily outpacing the United States’ output of 46.3 million tonnes.