China’s soybean imports haven’t been affected by the spread of COVID-19 globally and the soybean production is expected to increase in major soybean exporting countries, officials with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said at a briefing on Saturday.

The soybean production and demand gap in China is large, according to Pan Wenbo, head of the ministry’s crop production department.

As the largest import of agricultural product, soybean is mainly used for oil extraction and soybean meal feeds in China, said Wei Baigang, head of the ministry’ department of development and planning.

Last year, China imported 88.51 million metric tons of soybean, 85 percent of the domestic consumption. Among the importation, those from Brazil, the United States and Argentina accounted for 65, 19 and 10 percent, respectively, he said.

In January and February, the soybean import was 13.51 million tons, up 14.2 percent year-on-year, he added.

“At present, the import of soybean to China has not been affected by the outbreak,” said Wei, adding that the import volume of Brazilian soybean to China increased last month.

Brazilian soyabeans are now in the harvest season and the production this year is expected to increase, possibly to around 121 million tonnes, with exports also projected to rise, he said.

Most of the exports of soybean production in Brazil come to China. Brazilian farmers and the government are taking measures to ensure the production exported timely, he added.

In late April, the soybean farming in the US will enter the sowing period, and it is expected that the intended planting area of soybeans will increase, according to Wei.

China and the US have implemented the first stage of economic and trade agreement reached at the beginning of the year, so the soybean imports from the US may increase this year, he said.

The COVID-19 is still spreading and Brazil, Argentina and the US are the countries with severe epidemic. The ministry will pay close attention to the impact of the epidemic on China’s soybean imports together with relevant departments, Wei said.

The ministry will continue to promote the soybean production in China to increase domestic supply, he said.

Pan said in recent years the area under cultivation of soybean has continued to increase. Soybean acreage reached 9.33 million hectares last year, a high level since 2005, but imports are still needed to make up the domestic shortfall, he said.

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