For the last year, the U.S. Soybean Export Council has been working on a high impact project with the goal of diversifying export markets for U.S. soy. Specifically, this project has targeted building markets for U.S. soybean meal and other value-added products.
The U.S. is currently exporting soybean meal at greater than a 10 million MT/yr pace. Crushing is at full capacity, and U.S. crushers are capturing attractive margins. After April, we are likely to observe an export flow that reflects a 5 to 6 million MT pace at best because of an influx of meal from South America.
U.S. soybean meal continues to be price competitive, especially into Europe. Per the December 6 weekly report, another 43,000 metric tons of export shipments and open commitments were reported to Italy. U.S. soybean meal sales and shipments to Europe since October 1 are now running 375,000 MT ahead of last year. Total U.S. sales and shipments are ahead by 1.2 million MT to declared destinations and 205,000 MT ahead to unknown geographies.
Turkey, Korea, The Philippines and Egypt are other markets where the pace is more than 100,000 MT ahead of last year. Shipments to destinations in the Western Hemisphere are ahead by 222,000 MT, but open sales are behind by 219,000 MT. This is the result of the reluctance by mostly Canadian and Mexican "domestic" customers to defer their purchases as they have done historically.
European crushers have purchased 1.3 million MT more U.S. soybeans compared to this time last year. All have shipped except for 120,000 MT which is open to the United Kingdom. Leading destinations included Spain, Germany, and Netherlands.
The current pace of soybean exports from the U.S. is not expected to be sustainable given the reduced crop due to the drought of 2012. Full year estimate of U.S. soybean exports is 1,345 million bushels, 15 million bushels less than last year. The full year estimate of exported U.S. soybean crush is 1,570 million bushels, 133 million bushels less than last year. This translates to a reduction of U.S. soybean meal supply of nearly 3 million MT.
U.S. soybean meal is very price competitive for shipment through February, depending on destination. But by March and April, much less expensive soybean meal will enter export channels, first from Brazil, followed by Argentina.
Over the last five years, exports of U.S. soybeans and soy products have grown from 47% to 58% of total U.S. production. This year, the USDA estimates the total will again top 58%