First, Beijing slapped tariffs on American soybeans. Now, it wants to wean its farmers off them altogether.
China is the world’s biggest buyer of soybeans, using them as a protein-rich feed for livestock such as pigs and chickens. More than a third of its supply comes from the United States.
Beijing’s solution to get by without US beans? Give the animals less to eat.
One of the country’s top industry groups this month proposed cutting the amount of protein used in livestock feeds, saying animals could get by with less than is required at the moment. The government-run China Feed Industry Association said a reliance on imported soybeans is creating a “bottleneck” for the country’s farming industry.
But getting millions of Chinese farmers to reduce the amount of foreign soybeans eaten by their pigs is a daunting task that is likely to take a long time to carry out and could cause disruption throughout the country’s agricultural industry.
The plan would inflict further pain on US farmers already smarting from the tariffs and could eventually mean China no longer needs American soybeans at all.
“It’s directly linked to the US-China trade war,” said Loren Puette, the director of research firm ChinaAg in Taiwan. “The implication is that China will completely halt all future imports of US soybeans.”