Iran has emerged as the biggest buyer of U.S. soya beans in the aftermath of trade tensions between China and the U.S.

Between October and March each year, the US becomes the main source of soybeans for China, with the largest portion of the 35.7 million tons in total that it ships there annually being imported during this period.

However, in March, the brewing trade war between the two countries saw China extend its tariffs on imports from the US to several more agricultural products including soya beans.

Exports to China are down by 31% for the first eight months of 2018 and by 95% in August alone. During the first eight months of 2018, the US has exported 7.84 million tonnes of soya beans to China. This is down by 3.54 million tonnes from 11.38 million tonnes in the same period in 2017, BIMCO said.

In August, only 67,000 tonnes of soya beans have been shipped from the US to China. This is a reduction of 95% year-on-year.

There were only four months between January 2016 through to July 2018, that the US exported no more than one 82,000 DWT Panamax dry bulk cargo to Iran. In August 2018, 414,000 tonnes, the equivalent of five Panamax loads of soya beans were shipped to Iran – this amounts to 13.2% of total US soya bean exports in August.

“BIMCO anticipated trade lanes to change due to the ongoing trade war between China and the US. But it’s fair to say that Iran’s massive and sudden appetite for US soya beans is very unexcepted and the reason is currently unknown,” BIMCO’s Chief Shipping Analyst Peter Sand comments.

“From a shipping perspective it’s vital to have continued exports sent to far away destinations, deploying the many ships in position right now to cater for the seaborne transportation demand.

“The Chinese appetite for US soya beans has been muted all year, in absolute as well as relative terms.”

Brazil has managed to fill in a portion of Chinese exports during the first eight months of 2018. Brazil exported 50.9 million tonnes of soya beans to China, an increase of 6.8 million tonnes (+15%) from 44.1 million tonnes exported during the first eight months of 2017, BIMCO’s data shows.

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