Tag Archives: soybeans

Midwest soybean farmers to help pay for Pacific Northwest export terminal; rail service is risky for harvest this year.

Soybean exports are one of the US major sources of export revenue. China is the biggest consumer of soybeans that are exported, about half the US crop. The US competes with Brazil for the Far East soybean market.

Most soybeans to China are for pig feed. However, they can be used to produce biofuel as well.

The new port, in Aberdeen, WA, near Seattle and Tacoma, will export soybean meal. Six state Soybean Associations will chip in to cover the cost, along with the Soy Transportation Coalition. They’ll contribute $900K of the cost.

The terminal will have rail service, involving an interchange between the BNSF and UP main lines, which are predominant in service to Midwest farmers and their elevators, and the Puget Sound and Pacific line, which goes right to the port.

Like the agricultural shipping terminal near Oakland, CA, this facility ought to be of great value in exporting soybean products.

Elsewhere, corn farmers in the US Midwest are worried that railroad inefficiency and poor reliability will prevent grain exports from being shipped as the harvest comes on. A good summary of the situation is in the second article.

Many elevators rely on rail transport to get their grain to a port for export. Some can use barges down the Mississippi, but others, in locations more than 200 mi. from a Mississippi port, use rail at local sidings at elevators. Railroads will need to up their game to support the US export market for agricultural products.

Joanna Marsh Thursday, September 1, 2022

Midwest soybean farmers to help pay for Pacific Northwest export terminal – FreightWaves

 Joanna Marsh Friday, September 2, 2022

Grain shippers eye hiccups on rail network

Containerized soybean exports spike

There are suddenly more exports of soybeans to China in containers. It’s earlier than usual, and more of them. Over several years now, containerized exports of soybeans are rising, but suddenly it’s faster. A Taiwanese source said that “it’s more competitive than bulk” right now. Taiwan seems to be the main purchaser.

There are a few reasons why containers might be better for soybeans. First, you can trace the source much more closely than bulk. For customers who care, this may be a big deal. Second, the quality may be controlled better. In bulk vessels the beans are mixed with other lots, and even when an attempt is made (usually with a tarp or other barrier) to keep beans from two sources separate, some may escape the barrier. A third reason is ease of off-ship handling in areas where there aren’t good bulk unloading and storage facilities. Many remote regions can handle containers, load right on a truck, and transport inland to a distant point, when it might be difficult with bulk beans. And of course, it is a product that can be loaded for reverse travel for containers, to get them where they will be needed next.

I think in general we would expect bulk beans to be cheaper, because according to the article, the containers hold 20-22 metric tons of beans whereas bulk lots tend to run to 60,000 metric tons. However, it is nice to see that the niche is growing.

Chris Clott and I wrote a paper on this some years ago: Clott, Christopher B., Bruce Hartman, Elizabeth Ogard, and Althea Gatto. (2014). “Container Repositioning and Agricultural Commodities: Shipping Soybeans by Container from US Hinterland to Overseas Markets”.  Research in Transportation and Business Management. DOI: 10.1016/j.rtbm.2014.10.006.


Brazil’s May soybean exports jump 33% in month

Ever since we wrote a paper about exporting soybeans, I’ve been following the contretemps between Brazil and the US regarding soybean exports. China is the largest importer of soybeans from these two countries. Since one is Northern and one is Southern Hemisphere, their harvest seasons differ. So in the past the prices switched back and forth as the harvest supplies soared in one country or another, and China bought around the same from each source. The US has areas where yields are large, is a bit closer, and the inland transport for the soybeans is good. Brazil has lots of land planted, overland transport to ports is challenged a bit, and the distance to China is greater.

But now we have ‘exogenous factors’ as the economists like to say. China is in a trade war with the US. So as the second article indicates, China’s government-owned processors are buying some American beans, whereas the private Chinese enterprises are buying more Brazilian beans. The result is that more beans are going to China from Brazil right now. The trade war’s uncertain vicissitudes may mean that Brazil’s sales will become significantly bigger, and China will only buy what it thinks it has to from the US. Geopolitically, it makes sense for China to support Brazil, a developing country with lots of financing needs and less influence in the world. Support might mean good opportunities for Chinese investment and influence on Brazil’s policies internationally.

The outlook is really unclear. We need to keep watching developments in soybean trade.



Author Asim Anand