In the first four months of the 2020-21 US marketing year for soya beans (starting on 1 September), 2.5 Mt of soya beans were exported in containers, accounting for 6.3% of total exports, while 37.1 Mt departed the US in dry bulk ships.
Despite the record high containerised soya bean exports, the share of total US soya bean exports being sent in containers has fallen from previous years and is currently at its lowest level since the same period in 2017, according to shipping association Bimco.
“The scenario is unfolding at a time when some agricultural exporters report of difficulties getting access to containers, accusing carriers of preferring to send empty containers back to start a new fronthaul trip out of Asia, rather than accept agricultural cargoes,” the association said.
“Total US soya bean exports rose 89.3% in the first four months of the season, compared to the 2019/2020 season, while exports of containerised soya beans have ‘only’ risen by 52.2%.”
Almost half of US containerised soya beans are exported from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. A further 40% are exported from the Ports of New York and Virginia. Of total US soya bean containerised exports, a massive 99.7% are sent to Asia.
“Assuming that one 20ft container (TEU) can fit 20t of soya beans, around 124,400 TEU containers have sailed from the US with soya beans in the first four months of this season, a rise around 81,700 TEU in the previous season,” said Peter Sand, Bimco’s chief shipping analyst
“The drop in the share of exports that are containerised confirms that some exporters may be having trouble securing boxes. However, the fact that overall volumes have risen indicates that containers have been available.
“Furthermore, the 89.3% growth in total soya bean exports shows that even if some exporters have been unable to get hold of containers to fill, they have still been successful in exporting their soya beans,” concluded Sand.