U.S. soybean exports are moving quickly out of U.S. ports, spurred on by larger than normal Chinese purchases as the new marketing year begins. 

The U.S. exported 526,200 metric tons of soybeans Sept. 1-3, the first three days of the new marketing year and 400,900 tons of that total – roughly 76% - is heading to China, according to USDA data released Friday.

The U.S. trade outlook looks even brighter if you include old crop and new crop exports for the full week of Aug. 28 through Sept. 3, says Mac Marshall, vice president of market intelligence for the United Soybean Board and the U.S. Soybean Export Council.

“We’re looking at 1.7 million metric tons shipped … which is the second highest figure we’ve had on record,” he told Agri-Pulse.

“We’re off to a hell of a good year,” says John Baize, a USSEC analyst. “We’re really going to start ramping up exports big time now. In September we’re going to get a lot out of here – probably 5 or 6 million tons. In October, we’ll probably (export) 10 or 11 million tons.”

Interested in more coverage and insights? Receive a free month of Agri-Pulse.

That optimism is based mostly on USDA’s latest calculations for outstanding sales – the amount of new crop soybeans purchased so far, but not yet exported. USDA puts that number at a record-breaking 29.4 million metric tons, as of Sept. 3.  

“If you look at outstanding sales right now for (2020-21), not only is it a hell of a lot higher than last year, it’s higher than it was in 2016-17 when we exported the most soybeans ever,” said Baize.

The outstanding sales are perhaps even more impressive just for China. They total 15.5 million tons – more than the 13.9 million tons for the rest of the world - according to a new analysis from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Outstanding sales for China at this time last year were just 864,300 tons.

Addressing the current outstanding sales figures, Marshall said: “The vast majority of that is rollover as we crossed over from the prior marketing year to the new marketing year, but it is the highest number on record. I definitely take that as an encouraging sign for this year.”

Another encouraging sign are the prices and freight rates to China, said Baize. U.S. soybeans are going for $417.50 a ton, freight on board, out of the Pacific Northwest and $402.75 out of the Gulf. By comparison, Brazilian soybeans cost $427 a ton and are growing tight in supply.

“We’re extremely competitive right now,” Baize said.