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UPDATE 2-China September soybean imports fall 30% on slowing demand

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By Hallie Gu and Shivani Singh

BEIJING, Oct 13 (Reuters) - China's soybean imports in September fell 30% from the same month the previous year, and hit the lowest for the month since 2014, customs data showed on Wednesday, as poor crush margins curbed demand.

China, the world's top buyer of soybeans, brought in 6.88 million tonnes of the oilseed in September, down from 9.79 million tonnes last year, General Administration of Customs data showed.

"The figures were within market expectation," said an industry source, who declined to be identified as she was not authorized to talk to the media.

"Crush margins were bad while some crushers also suspended operation for regular maintenance," the source said.

Chinese crushers stepped up purchases of soybeans earlier in the year in anticipation of strong demand from a fast recovering pig herd.

Demand started to weaken, however, as plunging hog margins pressured crush margins.

Hog margins in Sichuan, a top pig producing region, plunged nearly 3,000 yuan this year and were at a minus 285 yuan (minus $44.22) per hog as of Tuesday. <JCI-HOGM-SICH>

That helped push crush margins to their lowest on record in June and they were negative until late August. <CNSOY-DLN-MRG>

Imports in September were also down from the 9.49 million tonnes brought in during August, the customs data showed.

China imported 73.97 million tonnes of soybeans in the first nine months of the year, down 0.7% from the same period last year, according to the data.

Shipments in October are expected to be smaller than the previous year as well, as low margins continue to curb buying while slow U.S. exports because of hurricane Ida will also reduce arrivals, traders said.

Still, soymeal cash prices have risen after recent large-scale power outages forced some crushers to shut down in recent weeks, which also has supported crush margins.

China's weekly soybean and soymeal inventories were down from the previous year as of last Friday, according to the agriculture consultancy. ($1 = 6.4455 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Hallie Gu and Shivani Singh; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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