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BEIJING, April 13 (Reuters)China’s soybean imports in March rose 7.9% from the same month a year earlier, data showed on Thursday, as buyers in China stocked up ahead of expected strong demand.

Total imports for the month came to 6.85 million tonnes, according to the General Administration of Customs, down 2% from February’s 7.04 million tonnes.

Lower March arrivals versus February is unusual but may have been due to delays clearing cargoes at customs, said Darin Friedrichs, founder of Shanghai-based Sitonia Consulting.

Arrivals for the first three months of the year came to 23 million tonnes, up 13.5% from a year earlier, the data also showed, and highest on record for the quarter. CNC-SOY-IMP

Much larger volumes are expected in coming months, said traders and analysts, but demand has proven weaker than expected.

Soybeans are crushed to make soybean meal, one of the major ingredients in animal feed and needed in large quantities for China’s huge hog herd.

Hog farmers, however, have been losing money since the start of the year, with hog prices hovering around 15 yuan ($2.18) per kg, pressured by weak demand and excess supply. JCI-HOGM-HENAN

“China’s pig farming is less profitable now, which is not conducive to the short-term demand for soybean meal,” said a Chinese futures analyst, who asked to remain anonymous.

($1 = 6.8826 yuan)

(Reporting by Qin Ningwei and Dominique Patton; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Tom Hogue)


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