The United States has been exporting soybeans at a record-setting pace, but early in 2010, South American producers will begin to harvest their soybeans, and U.S. shipments are expected to drop sharply. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Dec. 10 forecast 2009-10 U.S. soybean exports at a record 36,469,000 tonnes, up 4% from 34,925,000 tonnes in 2008-09, the current record outgo. The recent five-year average for U.S. soybean exports was 30,458,000 tonnes.

The U.S.D.A. forecast a record South American crop for 2009-10 at 126,032,000 tonnes, up 32% from 95,735,000 tonnes in the previous year. Drought ravaged the 2008-09 South American crop, especially in Argentina. Production in 2007-08 was 116,137,000 tonnes. The recent five-year average South American soybean production was 106,164,000 tonnes. Soybean planting was nearly completed in Brazil and Argentina, which, combined, account for more than 90% of South American soybean production. The harvest season in Brazil typically runs from February through May, and Argentine producers harvest their soybeans from April through early June. Current weather conditions across primary South American soybean-growing regions were favorable to realizing the production forecasts; indeed, some suggested the U.S.D.A. projection understated the potential. The Brazilian crop currently was forecast at a record 63 million tonnes, and the Argentine crop was projected at a record 53 million tonnes.

South American soybean exports in 2009-10 were projected at 40,112,000 tonnes, up from 39,188,000 tonnes in 2008-09 but less than the record outgo of 45,480,000 tonnes exported in 2007-08.