FILE PHOTO: Imported soybeans are transported at a port in Nantong, Jiangsu province, China August 6, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer/File photo

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – The Chinese state agricultural conglomerate COFCO Group recently purchased a batch of soybeans amounting to “millions of tonnes” from the United States, it said in a notice on Saturday.

The purchase was part of the company’s efforts to implement a “consensus” on trade agreed between China and the United States, it said in a notice on its website.

Soybeans have been a crucial element in simmering trade tensions between the two countries. China – the world’s biggest soybean importer – cut off purchases from the United States in 2018, sending prices tumbling and leaving U.S. farmers struggling to sell off their record harvest.

Purchases ceased in July after Beijing slapped 25 percent tariffs on U.S. soybeans and other goods, retaliating against similar tariffs imposed by Washington.

The tit-for-tat trade war was enough to bring full-year Chinese soybean exports from the United States down to their lowest level since 2008, with shipments down by half at 16.6 million tonnes.

However, the two countries agreed a 90-day truce at the beginning of January, allowing China to resume purchases.

China offered to buy another 5 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans in the latest round of trade talks, a White House official said on Thursday.

However, market analysts warned that U.S. exports to China were unlikely to return to previous levels even if the two countries settled their trade dispute, with China expected to turn more to South America and other suppliers.

Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Paul Tait


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