China's total contracts for soybeans reached 6.6 million tonnes by 18 November, a 44 per cent rise on the same period last year, according to the US department of agriculture.
These latest figures confirm China's place as a major importer of key commodities like soybeans and consequently the potential it holds to influence market prices. Although Chinese soybean production is slated to reach a record 18 million tons.
Food makers and ingredients firms across the world have been affected by rising prices for basic food commodities. In each of the last four years world grain production has fallen short of consumption, forcing a draw-down of global stocks for wheat, rice, corn and soybeans. Soybean prices recently hit 15-year highs and wheat and corn seven-year highs.
In each of the last four years world soybean production has fallen short of consumption, forcing a draw-down of global stocks exacerbated by growing demand from China.
But while prices recently hit 15-year highs, they have started to ease in the past month as increased availability has brought some relief to the price.
Today, soybean oil - together with palm oil - accounts for over half of all oil consumed in the world. The product still enjoys strong consumer-driven growth on the back of growing demand for vegetable oils as an alternative to animal fats in food formulations.
As of 2 December, total soybean market commitments came to 16.6 million tonnes, lagging behind last year's commitments at this time of 19.3 million tonnes, according to the USDA.
Soybean oil prices in the US are forecast at 21 to 24 cents per pound, down 0.5 cent on both ends of the range, as soybean supplies hit 460 million bushels and soybean oil production rises to 165 million pounds, based on a higher projected extraction rate.