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Iran emerging as a U.S. soybean customer

Iran emerging as a U.S. soybean customer

But the recent spike in exports is likely an isolated circumstance, a market analyst said

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

An unlikely purchaser has surfaced for U.S. soybeans.

Iran, who imported about US$27-million worth of American soybeans in 2017, was the top destination for U.S. beans in recent months.

The country purchased US$140-million worth of U.S. soybeans in August, and another US$44 million of beans in September, USDA data shows.

In contrast, China, usually the largest importer of U.S. soybeans, only bought US$24 million worth of American soybeans in September. That number is down from US$1.1 billion a year ago.

To date, the U.S. has shipped more than 873,000 tons of soybeans to Iran since trade disputes with China started in July. Iran imported just over 147,000 tons of U.S. soybeans in all of 2017.

In August, when Iran made its largest purchase, U.S. soybeans traded for US$8.91 per bushel. In contrast, farmers earned US$9.38 per bushel in August 2017.

The influx of U.S. soybean exports to Iran could just be a country taking advantage of a softened market, said Moe Agostino, chief commodity strategist with Farms.com Risk Management.

“With the lack of China in the trade picture, soybeans are definitely for sale and countries are buying cheaper beans,” he told Farms.com. “I’m thinking this is just a one-off because I don’t think Iran has the capability to replace China. It didn’t look like Iran was buying much and then suddenly there’s a spike, but it really isn’t much in the big picture.”

Despite Iran’s increased interest, without China in the mix, farmers could still see low commodity prices.

“Farmers have been dealing with low commodity prices and high input costs for the last five years, but now only worsened by the tariff impact,” Michael Petefish, president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, told KARE11 Wednesday.

All soybean farmers “want to be able to sell their product for a fair, competitive price,” he said.

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