* H1 soybean imports boosted by demand from recovering pig herd
* Demand might weaken in second half as crush margins fall
* Pig prices have halved since beginning of year (Adds chart, grain imports details)
BEIJING, July 13 (Reuters) – China’s soybean imports in June rose 11.6% from May, customs data showed on Tuesday, continuing the trend of resurgent demand in the world’s top buyer as it strives to meet meal demand for its burgeoning hog herds.
China took in 10.72 million tonnes of soybeans in June, up from 9.61 million tonnes in May, and the third-highest monthly amount on record, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.
While down 3.9% from a record 11.16 million tonnes a year earlier, the imports underline a surge this year in China’s soybean demand for soymeal to feed replenished hog herds after the decimation from African swine fever.
In the first six months of 2021, China’s soybean imports climbed 8.7% from the same period a year earlier to 48.96 million tonnes.
First-half imports rose as “pig inventories recovered and demand for soymeal rose,” said Rosa Wang, analyst with Shanghai JC Intelligence Co Ltd, an agriculture consultancy. June arrivals were higher as some cargoes meant for May unloading slipped into last month, she also said.
“Crushers also stepped up purchases due to worries of bean supplies later,” she said.
Chinese crushers booked large volumes from top supplier Brazil earlier in the year to profit from higher margins.
Rains in Brazil slowed the harvest and exports of the oilseed earlier in the year, but shipments have picked up in recent months and delayed cargoes have started arriving.
Chinese soybean imports may fall in the second half of the year as crush margins have turned negative, said two analysts who follow the market that asked to remain unidentified.
Crushers in Shandong province, a major soybean import and processing hub in northern China, now lose 198 yuan ($30.63) on each tonne of oilseed crushed. JCI-SBMG-SHDNI
China’s hog prices JCI-HOG-JIUJN have more than halved since the beginning of the year as farmers rushed pigs to slaughterhouses following another round of African swine fever outbreaks. Increased supply also pressured prices.
July soybean shipments are expected to drop on declining Brazilian shipments since the bulk of the country’s harvest has been collected, the analysts said.
Soybeans out of the United States typically dominate the market in the fourth quarter of the year as they are harvested in September and October.
Chinese crushers import soybeans to crush into soymeal to feed livestock and for cooking oil.
China also brought in 15.3 million tonnes of corn in the first half of the year, up 318.5% from a year ago. Wheat imports in the first half rose 60.1% to 5.37 million tonnes, according to the customs data.