Japan, Asia’s second-largest soybean buyer, is poised to boost rapeseed imports to a record as a rally in Chicago futures spurred oilseed crushers to seek alternative supplies from Canada and Australia.
Purchases will probably climb to 2.4 million metric tons this year, surpassing the 2.3 million-ton record set in 2010, Yoshinori Komura, managing director at Japan Oilseed Processors Association, said in an interview. Soybean imports may drop 4.6 percent to 2.7 million tons, the lowest in 43 years, according to the Japan Oil & Fat Importers & Exporters Association.
Soybeans in Chicago, which rallied to a record $17.89 a bushel on Sept. 4, have advanced 30 percent this year as the worst U.S. drought in more than half a century scorched crops. Japan’s food producers are seeking cheaper alternatives as they face difficulties in passing on raw-material costs. Canada, the largest shipper, benefits from the shift in demand to rapeseed and prices of the canola variety have advanced 18 percent this year. The U.S. was the biggest soybean exporter last year.
“Japanese food makers are becoming more flexible in choosing raw materials to curb costs as the global slowdown has made it difficult for the nation to end deflation,” said Takaki Shigemoto, an analyst at research company JSC Corp. in Tokyo. “Their search for affordable alternatives will continue.”
Both soybeans and rapeseed are crushed to produce cooking oil and meal, a source of protein in livestock feed. Nisshin Oillio Group Ltd., J-Oil Mills Inc. (2613) and Showa Sangyo Co. (2004) are the three-largest processors in Japan.
Demand for rapeseed meal from Japanese feed makers also increased as a cheaper alternative to soybean meal, Komura said. Soybean-meal futures in Chicago rallied to a record of $541.80 per 2,000 pounds on Sept 4, as drought reduced U.S. soy output.
Japanese demand for rapeseed also increased after soybean- meal shipments from India, the biggest supplier to Japan, declined on rising demand from Iran. U.S. and European sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program spurred the Islamic nation to seek alternative suppliers of the protein.
“Japanese crushers are running their rapeseed-processing plants at almost full of their capacity, while idling about half of their soybean capacity,” said Kazufumi Aramoto, secretary general of the Japan Oil & Fat Importers & Exporters Association.
Japan’s rapeseed imports reached 1.58 million tons in the first eight months of this year, climbing 1.6 percent from a year earlier, according to the agriculture ministry. Of the total, 1.51 million or 96 percent came from Canada. Australia was the second-largest supplier with 64,873 tons.
In the same months Japan’s soybean imports declined 2.6 percent to 1.9 million tons. The U.S. was the biggest supplier with 1.2 million tons, or 64 percent of the total volume, followed by Brazil with 389,043 tons.
Rapeseed meal represented 4.7 percent of Japanese feed output that reached 1.9 million tons in July, rising from 4.3 percent for last fiscal year, according to the agriculture ministry. Soybean meal accounted for 12.5 percent of the feed production in July, declining from 13.5 percent for the year ended March 31.
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