To continue market and trade service and maintain its partnership with the Chinese industry, USSEC China launched its first ever webinars on April 1 and 3. Virtual meetings such as these provide an alternative approach for China’s importers and buyers of U.S. Soy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The webinars attracted nearly 240 attendees from more than 80 companies representing soybean importers, crushers, feed millers, and animal integrators, many of whom organized their marketing and procurement teams to attend the webinars in their meeting rooms, helping USSEC to reach a much broader industry audience.
The signing of the Phase I Economic and Trade Agreement with the U.S. at the beginning of 2020 provided the industry with promising prospects for U.S. – China soy trade. Shortly after the signing, however, the COVID-19 outbreak began in China, soon becoming a pandemic. This “Black Swan” event, coupled with collapsing global petrol and equity markets, has cast great uncertainties over the soybean market. To address the industry’s increasing concerns on what will happen and what should be done in light of potential supply issues caused by the pandemic in major soybean exporting countries and other marketing influencing factors, USSEC China invited two renowned market experts, Mr. Hanver Li, Chairman of a privately owned market consulting firm, Shanghai JC Intelligence Company, and Mr. Bell Chen, Senior Vice President of Asia Division of R.J. O’Brien, to discuss current market challenges and opportunities with the webinar participants.
At the beginning of the digital meetings, participants watched video messages from USSEC Chair Monte Peterson, CEO Jim Sutter, and U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad reiterating the commitment of the U.S. soy industry and the U.S. government to their partners in China, ensuring U.S. soybean buyers of the sustainability of soy production and the reliability of the soybean supply from the U.S.
These messages were well-received and helped to enhance confidence among the Chinese buyers, some of whom commented in the post event phone calls and WeChat.
- “I felt less nervous about the supplies from the U.S. with the growers’ commitments.”
- “I am very much appreciative of the opportunity of hearing from the Ambassador about his personal support to U.S.-China soy trade as well as of that from the U.S. government.”
USSEC consultants presented topics, including “U.S. Soy Planting Perspectives,” “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Implementation of the Phase I Deal,” “Analysis of Market Influencing Factors for Soy Importers,” and “Soybean Meal Procurement Strategy Recommendations for Feed Millers.” The presentations addressed the industry’s current concerns regarding the soy market and trade. USSEC Regional Director – Greater China Xiaoping Zhang served as moderator for the webinars and joined the consultants interacting with the attendees who posted their questions via the “chat” feature of the virtual event platform. Participants asked questions about the possible impact of COVID-19 on U.S. planting acreage, grain elevator operations, export programs, Chinese purchases of U.S. ag products under the Phase I Deal, and Chinese domestic demand for soybean meal. The discussion was helpful to build buyers’ confidence in U.S. soybean supply reliability through the experts’ opinions on the current virus situation in the vast U.S. Midwest, which currently has fewer cases than other areas; the prevention and control measures in place; the efficient grain logistics infrastructure for inland truck transportation, rail hauling and barge movements; and the proactive measures taken by industry organizations to ensure the system will remain unaffected by the pandemic, a prime advantage of U.S. Soy’s international customers compared to other suppliers.
While virtual events and processes are new and sometimes challenging, the event marks another success for USSEC in China. This success can be measured from additional comments from attendees representing large scale crushers, integrators, and small- and medium-sized industry players after the event:
- “This is a highly expected event and the timing is excellent as we are looking for market directions to make purchase decisions.” (key crushing group)
- “We are very appreciative of USSEC to arrange the online events to discuss many hot topics on the market that are very beneficial to our purchasing team.” (swine integrator)
- “It is exciting to meet online with so many industry friends at the time of COVID-19 and to discuss the issues that the supply chain is facing.” (feed integrator)
- “USSEC experts shared their insights on many market-influencing factors that were not known to us in the past, a great value to our team.” (major feed integrator)
- “The presentations and discussion with the attendees provided excellent addition of supply situation to our more domestic-market oriented R&D within our group.” (animal integrator)
- “I am always enjoying the seminars organized by USSEC, which have been providing us with timely information and non-biased opinions on market and trade situation.” (soy importer)
- “We are looking forward to more of such market outlook events from USSEC.” (local representative of a US soy export company)