Poor Chinese demand a setback for grain exports

Loading grain on a vessel at a Burrard Inlet terminal. (Maxvis/iStock/Getty Images)

MarketsFarm — Canadian grain exports from licensed facilities are running well behind the previous year’s pace, due primarily to a sharp reduction in movement to China, according to latest monthly data from the Canadian Grain Commission.

Total exports at Dec. 31 of grain, oilseed and pulse crops for the 2019-20 crop year to date came in at 17.6 million tonnes, down from 20.7 million in the year-earlier five-month period. Of those totals, China was the top destination in both years, but took 7.5 million tonnes in 2018-19 and only 2.4 million tonnes in the current marketing year.

On a crop-by-crop basis, Canadian canola exports to China during the first five months of the marketing year of 553,000 tonnes were down by 74 per cent from the previous year. Wheat exports to the country, at 269,000 tonnes were down 73 per cent, and non-existent soybean sales compare to 2018-19 when Canada had already exported three million tonnes of soybeans to China by the end of December.

However, a few crops have seen improvements on the year. Total Canadian pea exports to China so far in 2019-20 are up 44 per cent on the year, at 860,200 tonnes. China has also imported 10 per cent more barley, at 725,600 tonnes.

While total Chinese demand for Canadian grains may be down, a number of other countries have increased their purchases.

Italy and Turkey have both increased their durum imports considerably on the year. Total Canadian durum exports as of the end of December of two million tonnes were up 40 per cent on the year, due primarily to increases to those two countries.

The United Arab Emirates and Europe were also buying considerably more canola than the previous year, with exports to the UAE of nearly half a million tonnes, up 383 per cent on the year. Much of the UAE demand is tied to processors in the country who crush the seed and then export the oil to China and other destinations.

Meanwhile, combined Canadian canola exports to France, Germany, Belgium and Portugal of 904,000 tonnes were up 336 per cent.

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