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U.S. soybean meal exports up, soybean exports lower than expected

Agriculture.com Staff 03/21/2006 @ 9:53am

Expectations for an increase in soybean acreage in 2006 are driven by the cost advantage of soybeans over competing crops like corn, said a University of Illinois Extension marketing specialist.

"Other factors driving these expectations include increased acreage of double-cropped soybeans stemming from an increase in acreage of soft red winter wheat and a rebound in acreage in Minnesota and the Dakotas if spring weather is more normal," said Darrel Good.

Good's comments came as he reviewed consumption, stocks, and acreage of soybeans. "The magnitude of U.S. soybean exports during the current marketing year continues to be disappointing," he said. "The USDA now forecasts 2005-06 marketing year shipments at only 900 million bushels. "At the beginning of the 2005-06 marketing year, the USDA expected U.S. exports would reach a record 1.115 billion bushels. That forecast has been lowered every month since October 2005."

So far this year, USDA weekly export estimates have been tracking the monthly Census Bureau estimates very closely, he noted. Through January 2006, both the cumulative inspections estimate and the cumulative estimate from the Export Sales report were just five million bushels below the Census Bureau estimate of 510.7 million bushels.

As of March 16, 2006, exports totaled about 671 million bushels, 200 million less than on the same day last year. Only Taiwan and Mexico have imported more U.S. soybeans this year than were imported last year.

"Shipments to China, which have accounted for 46 percent of all U.S. exports, are running nearly 22 percent behind the pace of a year ago," said Good. "Unshipped sales of U.S. soybeans to all destinations on March 9, 2006 totaled only 98.3 million bushels, compared to 119 million on the same date last year. "Only China has larger sales on the books than at this time last year. That total, however, is only 29 million bushels. With a record-large South American harvest under way, U.S. exports may struggle to reach 900 million bushels by August 31, 2006."

The domestic crush of soybeans so far this year has exceeded the early USDA forecast. The projection in September 2005 was for a marketing year crush of 1.685 billion bushels, 11 million less than the crush of the previous year. The March 2006 forecast was at 1.72 billion bushels, 1.4 percent larger than last year's crush.

"The cumulative crush through the first five months of the marketing year was 2.2 percent larger than that of a year ago," said Good. "Indications, however, are that the crush slowed in February. The larger-than-expected crush to date has been fueled by slightly larger soybean meal exports than forecast at the beginning of the year and a slightly lower meal content of the 2005 crop."

Soybean oil consumption is currently expected to be 19.125 billion pounds, compared to the September 2005 forecast of 19.15 billion pounds. The soft export market for U.S. soybean oil along with the record high oil content of the 2005 crop is expected to result in year-ending U.S. oil stocks of 2.679 billion pounds, only slightly below the record year-ending inventory of 2.877 billion pounds in 2000-01.

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