Soybean imports to be restricted

08:33, April 01, 2010      

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China is expected to curb imports from one of its largest soybean suppliers, Argentina, in a bid to save the domestic soybean industry, trade representatives from a meeting with the government said Wednesday.

They did not say if soybeans from the United States, another major supplier, would be subject to any restrictions.

Argentine soybean oil imports with residual solvents of more than 100 parts per million (ppm) will be barred from the Chinese market as of Thursday, according to heads of domestic grain and oil giants attending a briefing given by the China Chamber of Commerce of Import and Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal By-Products, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Commerce.

The move is to help domestic producers and in retaliation against Argentina, which has launched anti-dumping measures on goods from China, including tableware and textile threads, Bloomberg quoted the trade group's vice chairman, Bian Zhenhu, as saying.

Soybeans are generally treated as an oil crop in China, not classified as grain, whose domestic production is under special protection for national security reasons. The latest measure on imported soybean oil came amid years-long concern that domestic soybean production in China, the world's largest soybean oil consumer, is under threat from imported soybeans.

China went from a major soybean producer to the largest soybean importer in 2002 when it abolished an import quota and tariff on soybeans. China consumes 40 million tons of soybeans annually. As much as 70 percent of China's edible oil market depends on imports from major soybean producers in the world, including the US, Argentina and Brazil.

The China National Grain and Oil Information Center reported China's 2009 imports of soybeans were about 42.5 million tons, up 13.5 percent from a year earlier. However, production of domestic soybeans is around 16 million tons.

Heilongjiang Province is a major soybean production base in China. Wang Xiaoyu, vice secretary general of Heilongjiang Soybean Association, told the Global.

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