In agricultural trade data issued last week, the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated U.S. soybean exports to China during fiscal year 2009 (October 2008-September 2009) at 19,160,028 tonnes, making China, by an insurmountably wide margin, the largest foreign buyer of U.S. soybeans. U.S. soybean exports to all destinations during the fiscal year totaled 35,169,637 tonnes with China accounting for 54.5% of that aggregate. The next-largest buyer of U.S. soybeans in fiscal 2009 was Mexico, which purchased 3,223,844 tonnes accounting for 9.2% of the U.S. soybean outgo. Other buyers among the top five markets for U.S. soybeans during the fiscal year were Japan (2,502,871 tonnes), the European Union-27 (2,037,699 tonnes) and Taiwan (1,601,458 tonnes). China’s imports of U.S. soybeans in fiscal 2009 were up 5,747,471 tonnes, or 43%, from 13,412,557 tonnes in fiscal 2007.

In September, which was both the final month of the 2009 fiscal year and the first month of the U.S. 2009-10 soybean crop year, China imported 757,229 tonnes of U.S. soybeans compared with 198,699 tonnes in September 2008, according to U.S.D.A. data.

The U.S.D.A. in its November World Agricultural Supply & Demand Estimates projected China’s soybean imports from all sources in 2009-10 at 40.5 million tonnes, which would be off only slightly from the 41.1 million tonnes the nation imported in 2008-09.