KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 (Reuters) – Growth in China’s palm oil imports, under pressure due to a slowing economy, will suffer another setback this year as the country taps into ample global supplies of the rival oilseed soybean to feed its expanding livestock sector.
Any dent to palm oil purchases by the world’s No.2 consumer will add to pressure on benchmark prices of the tropical oil that are currently near one-month lows. The market has shed 3 percent this month in the absence of an expected rise in Chinese demand ahead of Lunar New Year celebrations in February.
With China’s economic growth seen cooling to its slowest pace in 25 years, its demand for most commodities has been hit, but palm oil faces a double whammy, said Pawan Kumar, director of Rabobank Singapore. “It is also losing out to soyoil given China’s preference for soybean for its livestock industry.”
China has significantly ramped up its capacity to crush soybeans for animal feed in a bid to maintain a steady supply of pork, of which the country is the world’s biggest consumer.
But as soybeans yield both meal and soyoil, crushing more means a lot of vegetable oil will also be churned out, chipping away at China’s need for palm oil.
“As a result, whatever growth there will be for vegetable oil demand in China will be for soyoil … This pretty much can be solved by additional crushing. In that scenario, it’s hard to see any import growth on the palm side,” said Kumar.
He expects China’s purchases of the tropical oil to hold steady at 5.8 million tonnes in the year to September 2016, after growing only 2 percent in 2014/15.
CHINA TO USE MORE SOYOIL
China is expected to use 7.8 percent more soyoil in 2015/16 and 0.4 percent more palm oil, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data shows. This compares to a rise of 3.4 percent and 1 percent, respectively, a year ago.
Much of the change in the pattern of consumption will be driven by China’s soybean crushing capacity that is expected to increase 10 percent to 179 million tonnes in 2016.
As domestic soybean output is not enough to meet crushing needs, China’s imports of the oilseed are likely to climb from an all-time high of 81.69 million tonnes reached in 2015.
Aiding its purchases will be ample Latin American supplies and a cut in Argentina’s tax on soybean exports.
Palm oil is already facing competition as its discount to soyoil has narrowed in recent months due to large stockpiles of soybeans from Argentina.
“Palm oil consumption is not going to disappear, but we are seeing a shift in its overall share of China’s vegetable oil use,” said Aurelia Britsch, a senior commodities analyst at BMI Research in Singapore.
“In the coming years, palm oil consumption and import growth are unlikely to match the growth seen in the 2000s when imports expanded at double-digit rates on an average annually.”
(Source – https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/growing-appetite-soybeans-crimp-chinas-065700236.html)