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Large Chinese Imports of South American Soybeans Continues; Another “Humanitarian Corridor” Grain Ship Sails, While Temperature Lowered on Ukraine, Poland Rift

Bloomberg writers Hallie Gu and Tarso Veloso Ribeiro reported earlier this week that, “China’s voracious appetite for South American soybeans has continued into a period typically dominated by the US, an ominous sign for that nation’s growers as their harvest begins.

“Importers have booked at least 20 cargoes from Brazil and Argentina over the past two weeks for delivery to China during October, November and into December, according to people familiar with the matter. Chinese buyers were already snapping up Brazilian beans for delivery in the fourth quarter as far back as July.

“China’s Feast on Brazilian Soybeans Leaves US Smaller Share,” by Hallie Gu and Tarso Veloso Ribeiro. Bloomberg News (September 20, 2023).

“Brazil has benefited from a bumper harvest, allowing the country to offer soybeans at lower prices than rival producers. That’s left US suppliers with a smaller-than-usual window in which to tap Chinese buyers.”

Gu and Ribeiro explained that, “In the first eight months of 2023, China imported about 48 million tons of Brazilian soybeans, up 17% from a year ago, according to customs data.

“An additional constraint for US producers will be domestic. Water levels on the Mississippi River, which carries almost half of the nation’s agricultural exports, have been dropping since June, restricting the volume of crops allowed on each barge.”

Meanwhile, New York Times writer Matthew Mpoke Bigg reported today that, “A second cargo ship loaded with wheat departed from a Ukrainian port on Friday, another test of the country’s determination to set up a corridor for its exports across the Black Sea even as the Russian Navy poses a potential threat to shipping in the region.”

The Times article pointed out that, “Whether Ukraine can fully establish its new grain route depends on several factors, including the willingness of private shipping companies to accept an elevated risk, particularly while the vessels are in port or in Ukrainian waters, shipping experts say.

The greatest risk is a further escalation of conflict in the Black Sea, which in recent months has become an increasingly central theater of the wider war between Moscow and Kyiv.”

Bloomberg writer Ben Sharples reported today that, “Russia has previously said it would treat any vessels headed to Ukraine’s ports as potential carriers of weapons, and last month opened fire on a ship to force it to stop for checks.”

Elsewhere, Loveday Morris and Emily Rauhala reported in today’s Washington Post that, “Poland, one of Ukraine’s staunchest backers in the fight against Russia’s invasion, said it was halting new weapons shipments to Kyiv, as tensions over grain exports continued to escalate between Ukraine and its Central European neighbors.”

The Washington Post (Page A11 – September 22, 2023).

However, the Post article indicated that, “But Poland appeared to attempt to ease tensions later Thursday, as President Andrzej Duda called for calm and warned against an ‘over-interpretation‘ of the prime minister’s comments. He said [Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki] meant that Poland wouldn’t transfer new weapons from the stocks it had purchased from countries such as the United States and South Korea. Speaking to Polish reporters at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, he said it was still possible that weapons from old army stocks could be transferred to Kyiv ‘just as we have done before.'”

Morris and Rauhala explained that, “Poland, Hungary and Slovakia said last week they would keep in place a ban on the import of Ukrainian grain products as an agreement with the European Union expired.”

“Ukrainian officials pledged this week to take legal action against Poland, Hungary and Slovakia to overturn the ban, though Kyiv’s chances of achieving a quick remedy seemed virtually nonexistent,” the Post article said.

Today’s article added that, “Slovakia and Ukraine reached agreement on a new licensing system for trading in grain during an online meeting between the two countries’ agricultural ministers Wednesday, the Slovak government confirmed Thursday. The country’s ban on Ukrainian grain will continue ‘until this system is launched and its full operation is tested,’ the agricultural ministry said, without giving a timeline.

Ukraine also agreed to halt its legal action against Slovakia within the World Trade Organization and drop threats for reciprocal bans on Slovak products.”

Yesterday, Financial Times writer Roman Olearchyk reported that, “Ukraine’s agriculture minister Mykola Solskyi said he and his Polish counterpart Robert Telus had ‘agreed to find a solution‘ over a stand-off that saw Poland, Hungary and Slovakia this week prolong bans on Ukrainian grain imports.

“Solskyi’s statement came as Slovakia’s agriculture ministry announced it had agreed to set up a licensing system for Ukrainian grain imports, allowing its ban to be lifted.”

And Bloomberg writers Piotr Skolimowski and Natalia Ojewska reported yesterday that, “The Polish government sought to walk back remarks by its premier that the country had stopped weapons shipments to Ukraine, tapping the brakes on an escalating dispute that’s shaken a key wartime alliance.

“After Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Poland is no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine, his office aimed to lower the temperature following a heated exchange of barbs this week that’s dismayed allies and undermined a relationship that’s been crucial to aid to Kyiv.”

Also yesterday, Reuters writer Anna Pruchnicka reported that, “Ukraine agreed to license its grain exports to Slovakia on Thursday and pushed for a deal with Poland to end restrictions by its neighbours on grain that it has been forced to send overland since Russia’s invasion last year.”

“Ukraine said its farm minister, in a phone call with his Polish counterpart, agreed to work out a solution to the grain dispute in the interests of both countries,” the Reuters article said.

Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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