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China to Purchase $1.8 Billion in Soybeans From U.S.

China, the world’s biggest soybean importer and consumer, agreed to purchase $1.8 billion of the oilseed from the U.S., said Wang Chao, the vice minister of commerce.

A delegation of Chinese buyers signed 10 contracts today in Chicago with companies including Archer Daniels Midland Co., Bunge Ltd. and Cargill Inc., coinciding with President Hu Jintao’s visit to the city. Ten additional contracts may be signed at a ceremony tomorrow, said Paul Burke, the director of global marketing for the U.S. Soybean Export Council.

Sales to China, the world’s most populous nation, have surged as demand increased for cooking oils and livestock feed. Soybean futures are up 49 percent in the past year, and last week touched the highest price since July 2008. China’s 10.3 percent economic growth last year drove the biggest increase in the nation’s rural incomes in a quarter century.

“The China-U.S. soybean trade has not only satisfied market demand in China but also generated enormous business opportunities for American farmers,” Wang said through an interpreter during the signing ceremony.

China imported 22.454 million metric tons of U.S. soybeans in the marketing year that ended Aug. 31, up 20 percent from the previous year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Through the end of November, U.S. exporters sent $9.06 billion in soybeans to China in 2010, up 21 percent from a year earlier, USDA data show.

110 Million Bushels

The agreements signed today involve about 110 million bushels of soybeans for delivery in the marketing year that ends Aug. 31, said Jim Call, the international marketing chairman of the United Soybean Board, a trade group.

“U.S. farmers have a good-quality product, and we’ve got a good infrastructure to move our beans,” Call said in an interview after the ceremony. “We’ve got a good banking system and economy, and we’ve got a stable government here. All those things people overseas enjoy about the U.S.”

Soybean futures for March delivery rose 2.75 cents, or 0.2 percent, to settle at $14.1425 a bushel today on the Chicago Board of Trade.

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