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NOPA March U.S. Soy Crush Seen at 168.028 mln Bushels -Survey

By Mark Weinraub CHICAGO, April 12 (Reuters) - Rising overseas competition for soymeal exports led to a slowdown in the pace of U.S. soybean crushing during March compared to a year earlier, according to analysts polled ahead of a monthly National Oilseed Processors Association report.

NOPA members likely crushed 168.028 million bushels of soybeans last month, according to the average of estimates given by eight analysts in a Reuters survey.

If realized, that would still be the second heaviest March crush on record, behind only last year's 171.858 million bushels. In February, the NOPA crush totaled 154.498 million bushels.

The price of U.S. soymeal relative to competitors such as Argentina rose during the month as more soybeans from the South American harvest became available, traders said. That weighed on the demand for U.S. supplies from overseas buyers.

The monthly NOPA report will be released at 11 a.m. CDT (1600 GMT) on Monday.

NOPA is the largest U.S. trade organization for soy crushers, with its members handling about 95 percent of all soybeans processed in the United States. It releases crush data on the 15th of each month or the next business day.

Crush forecasts for March ranged from 155.000 million to 171.400 million bushels, with a median of 170.350 million.

Soyoil supplies among NOPA members at the end of March were projected at 1.783 billion pounds, up 1.8 percent from 1.752 billion pounds at the end of February but down 8.4 percent from 1.946 billion pounds at the end of March 2018.

Soyoil stocks estimates ranged from 1.702 billion to 1.872 billion lbs, with a median estimate of 1.780 billion. (Reporting by Mark Weinraub in Chicago Editing by James Dalgleish)

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