WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — China’s growing crush capacity supports the likelihood of additional imports from countries such as the U.S. and Brazil, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in its February report on oilseeds world markets and trade.

The USDA said China will seek to utilize its full crushing capacity, building confidence that the world’s second-largest economy will increase its potential demand for protein meal and vegetable oil. The greater crushing capacity “also implies that oilseed imports, particularly soybeans, could be larger as crushing plants would attempt to optimize their operations,” said the USDA

The USDA said Chinese crushing capacity, about 140 million tonnes in 2013-14,  was well above actual combined crush of soybeans and other oilseeds was likely to reach slightly above 100 million tonnes.

The crush sector in China has been expanding almost entirely on imported soybeans from South America and the U.S.

“Demand for vegetable oil in food remains insatiable (in China),” the USDA said, “spurred by steady economic growth, rising incomes, and changing tastes.”

As of the week ended Jan. 30, U.S. soybean commitments — outstanding sales plus accumulated exports — to China totaled 27.7 million tonnes, compared to 20.9 million a year ago, the USDA said.

“Total commitments to the world are 43 million tonnes, compared to 34.1 million for the same period last year,” the USDA said.

The USDA said total soybean exports in the U.S. are up 406,000 tonnes to 41.1 million tonnes on record large sales and shipments so far this crop year, particularly to China. In addition, U.S. soybean meal exports are up 181,000 tonnes to 9.9 million tonnes, reflecting unusually strong foreign demand and lagging Argentine exports.

The USDA added that Argentinian soybean and soybean meal exports declined sharply in 2013-14. In Brazil, soybean exports are up 1 million tonnes to 45 million tonnes because of a larger crop, the USDA said.