North Dakota soybean processors are feeling the heat of President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, as Chinese orders drop and their selling season goes to ruin.
The head of the North Dakota Trade Office says Chinese buyers have killed all of their firm orders for food-grade soybeans, valued at $1.2 to $1.5 million. The cancellations happened just prior to and immediately after tariffs went into effect in July.
Soybean processors sell $30 million to $35 million worth of food-grade soybeans to China each year, contracting with growers before the seeds are planted.
In the summer, processors finalize contracts with China – but this year, orders from China are virtually gone.
“Our food grade processors are normally working between July and August to lock in contracts with foreign customers,” says Simon Wilson, Executive Director of the North Dakota Trade office. “With China now on the sidelines they are working other Asian countries to see where they can sell the product."
He adds that even if they find new buyers, sales would be less profitable, "as moving to new customers drives lower margins than established ones.”
Though the Trump administration has issued vague promises to ensure American farmers will not suffer greatly during trade tensions, the farmers and processors are getting anxious.
What’s more, steel tariffs are raising the price of equipment, adding to farmers’ pain, Wilson said. “There have been comments that the farmers will be taken care of but they are anxious to see what that means. There are fears of bankers calling at the end of the year not renewing lines of credit,” he added.
“Given the latest round of tariffs, the soybean processors fear this trade war will be long-term,” said Wilson. “No one is talking to each other and public comments still have to be submitted and heard. It’s going to take a while."