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China imports more U.S. soybeans

China imported at least two cargoes of U.S. soybeans on Dec. 17 after receiving another round of tariff-free quota for shipments from the U.S., Reuters reported.

The sales were the first since U.S. President Donald Trump announced an interim trade deal with China last week. As part of phase one of the deal, Trump said China had agreed to purchase up to $50 billion in U.S. agricultural products beginning in 2020, although China has not confirmed Trump’s statement.

Citing unnamed sources, Reuters said the duty-free quota was awarded for 10 to 15 vessels carrying between 600,000 and 1.5 million tonnes.

The sources told Reuters that China would need about 1 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans before new-crop Brazilian soybeans are available in the first quarter of 2020.

The United States and China have been in an ongoing trade dispute since China raised import tariffs by 25% on U.S. soybeans in July 2018 in retaliation for U.S. duties on Chinese goods. Both countries have continued to work on resolving the ongoing trade issues.

China, by far the world’s largest soybean consumer, will see its demand for imported soybeans drop in the foreseeable future due to the African swine fever epidemic that has caused its hog population to be reduced by nearly 50%.

The country also is trying to become more self-sufficient. China’s soybean production increased 13% to 18.1 million tonnes in 2019, according to official data released on Dec. 6.