China bans Argentine soya oil
China has banned Argentine soya oil shipments from entering its ports, potentially triggering a major switch to Brazilian cargoes, amid a quality dispute that many believe will take months to resolve.
China took 2.4m tonnes of soya oil in 2009 and was booked to take 200,000 tonnes from Argentina each month between April and July. But a row over the solvent levels of the oil has resulted in the cancellation of all shipments between the world"s biggest importer and exporter.
?The Chinese are only allowing vessels that have already been shipped to China to discharge them, but they won"t permit any more with oil more than 100 parts per million,? an Argentine trader confirmed.
He said that although talks between the two countries were continuing, it could be months before the problem was resolved.
As a result, most analysts agree that while the US could benefit from additional soya oil sales to China, the biggest winner would be Brazil, where soya oil solvent levels can often be below the 100 ppm China is asking for.
Another Argentine trader revealed certain Chinese buyers had already started negotiating with Brazilian exporters. ?We have heard that some buyers are asking for the origin to be changed to Brazil but apparently they have not been able to agree on the cost of doing that,? he said.
The first trader, however, dismissed the comments as ?just rumours?.
Most soya oil is shipped on IMO II-type chemical tankers, typically in shipments of 40,000 tonnes-45,000 tonnes.
John Baize, president of US-based John C Baize and Associates, said the issue should be resolved sooner rather than later. ?China is taking advantage of its importance as an importer and flexing its muscles against countries that are restricting Chinese exports. I suspect this will be a trend in other products in the future,? he said.
Meanwhile, a quarrel between Argentine port workers and their employers that caused strikes that temporarily disrupted trade at the beginning of the month has been resolved, with union workers reaching a wage agreement last week.