U.S. exporters of this protein meal have benefited from a soybean production shortfall in Argentina last year. Argentina is the world’s largest exporter of soybean meal. The latest USDA WASDE report maintained its 2018/19 export projection for U.S. soybean meal at 13.750 million short tons. If achieved, this would be the second-highest amount ever shipped overseas next to 14.057 million tons record a year ago.
In recent pieces we have outlined how the USDA export projections for corn and soybeans seem optimistic given the sluggish sales and shipment pace relative to WASDE projections compared to past seasons. In this post we do the same thing for soybean meal.
The graphic shows U.S. soybean meal export sales and shipments as of first week in March in 1000 metric tons on the left axis and both as a percent of the March WASDE projection on the righthand axis.
Current exports of 8.95 million tons appear to be the second highest ever for this point in the marketing year (October 1-September 30) next to the 9.080 mt sold in the 2014/15 season though the amount shipped of 5.33 million tons albeit above the prior three years is below the previous three years from 2012 to 2015.
Measured as a percent of the March WASDE estimate of 13.750 million both the export and shipped pace seems less impressive. The current amount exported is only 71.8% of this level, the lowest figure as of the first week of March as a percent of the March WASDE since the 2011/12 season. This is below the ten-year average of 75.6% while the amount shipped is only 42.7%. Other than the 42.1% figure in the 2016/17 season, this would be the lowest since the 2008/09 marketing year and also below the ten-year average of 50.0%.
Time will tell whether the 13.75 mt projection will be achieved. It will be linked to the fate of the U.S.-China trade talks and how well the South American soybean crop finishes out along with the pace of early season harvesting and trucking.