China's imports of soybeans from the U.S. in January fell 14 percent from the same month a year ago, customs data showed, as Brazil grabbed a larger slice of the world's biggest market for the oilseed with higher-protein beans.
According to customs data released on Saturday, China imported 5.82 million tons of soybeans from the U.S. in January, equal to 67 percent of all imports. In 2017, U.S. beans accounted for 88.5 percent of the January total.
The drop underlines concerns about a slide in U.S. sales to the world's top soybean buyer because of declining protein levels in U.S. soybeans, allowing Brazil to lure customers with its own higher-protein crop.
It also comes amid a growing trade spat between the U.S. and China after the U.S. government slapped tariffs on imports of solar panels and washing machines earlier this year.
Brazil sold 2.07 million tons of beans to China in January, up 720 percent from a year ago and equivalent to just under a quarter of the total. The South American nation accounted for just 3.3 percent of the January 2017 total.
Its share of soybean exports to China grew to the largest on record in 2017 and looks set to expand again this year, helped by competitive prices as well as the high protein content of its beans.
China also imported 560,415 tons of U.S. sorghum in January, the data showed, being the world's top importer of sorghum, which it feeds to its huge livestock sector.