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Why Trump’s Trade War Is a Huge Gift to Brazilian Farmers

July 6, 2018, 10:32 AM UTC

Soybean prices in the U.S. and Brazil, the nations that account for roughly 80% of global exports, have taken drastically different paths thanks to Donald Trump’s trade war.

In the U.S., average cash prices fell to about $7.87 a bushel this week, the lowest in almost a decade, according to an index compiled by the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. That comes as China gears up to enact retaliatory tariffs against American farm goods in response to President Trump’s pledge to slap fees on some products from the Asian country.

Meanwhile in Brazil, exporters have been handed high times. Soybeans to be loaded in August at the nation’s Paranagua port fetched $2.21 a bushel more than Chicago futures on Thursday, the widest gap since data starts in 2014. The premium has more than tripled since the end of May, according to data from Commodity 3.

“Premiums reflect the rising possibility of China being more dependent on Brazil’s soybeans,” Luis Fernando Roque, an analyst at consultancy firm Safras & Mercado, said in a telephone interview from Porto Alegre.

The rally means the added premium for Brazil supplies are equal to about two-thirds the cost of the tariffs China is planning to levy on U.S. shipments, according to a report from INTL FCStone (INTL).

So far, good crushing margins are helping to keep Chinese demand robust for Brazilian supplies, even with surging premiums. China bought about 1.1 million metric tons of soybeans from Brazil last week, while no purchases from the U.S. were reported, according to the China National Grain and Oils Information Center.

That’s an unusual move for this time of the year, when China usually starts booking U.S. supply in the months before the North American harvest starts. Supplies in Brazil begin to fall after shipments peak for the season in May.