APAC / Issue Q2 2021 5 NEWS , China’s imports of soybeans, as well as grains like corn and wheat, soared in the first quarter, boosted by strong demand from the livestock sector, data from customs showed on Tuesday. Soybean imports almost doubled in March alone year-on- year, according to customs data, as cargoes of beans from top exporter Brazil cleared customs after delays. Meanwhile first-quarter corn and wheat shipments jumped on elevat- ed domestic corn prices amid a supply shortage, the data showed. China, the world’s top soybean buyer, brought in 7.77 million tonnes of the oilseed in March, up 82% from a year ago, ac- cording to data from the General Administration of Customs. “Soybean arrivals in Jan-Feb were lower than market expec- tation due to cargo delay. Some shipments delayed earlier later cleared customs,” said Xie Huilan, analyst with agricul- ture consultancy Cofeed, speaking after the data release. “More than 5 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans were loaded in January for shipment to China, some of which arrived in March,” Xie said. The customs bureau did not break out monthly figures for corn and wheat for March, usually published in the latter half of each month. But it said China brought in 6.727 million tonnes of corn in the quarter, rocketing more than fivefold from the previous year, while quarterly wheat imports more than doubled from a year ago to 2.925 million tonnes. Rains in top exporter Brazil have delayed harvest and ship- ments of soybeans this year, but cargoes delayed earlier have slowly started to arrive. China’s soybean imports in the first three months of the year came in at 21.18 million tonnes, up 19% from 17.79 million tonnes in the previous year, according to customs data. Chinese crushers previously stepped up purchases of soy- beans on good crushing margins as the market had antic- ipated healthy demand from the country’s fast-recovering pig farming sector. A recent round of African swine fever outbreaks, however, has wiped out at least 20% of the breeding herd in northern China, according to some estimates, curbing demand for soymeal, a major feed ingredient. Soymeal futures traded on the Dalian Commodity Exchange have fallen 10% since they hit record highs in January on worries over demand due to the outbreaks. Soybean arrivals in the coming months were expected to be even higher, industry sources and analysts said. Large arrivals of beans and weaker demand from the pig sector would further pressure crush margins. China’s national weekly soybean meal inventories as of April 13, were at 797,900 tonnes, up from 477,000 tonnes end of January. Meanwhile, soybean stocks fell slightly to 4.4 million tonnes from levels at the beginning of the year. Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd has seen domestic leisure travel rebound to pre-pandemic levels, but demand in the corporate trav- el market is lagging about three months behind, its chief execu- tive said. The airline plans to fly 80% of its pre-pandemic domestic capacity in the quarter ending June 30, al- lowing it to generate cash for the first time in several quarters, Alan Joyce told a CAPA Centre for Avi- ation event on Wednesday. His comments were made in an interview recorded the previ- ous day. Much of the Australian domestic business travel market is linked to areas such as transporting mining workers, government travel and essential construction and man- ufacturing travel that are proving resilient, Joyce said. “The market that could be subject to being replaced by video con- ferencing, like professional ser- vices and people having internal meetings, we think the net result is something like a 13-15% drop in the corporate market,” he said. “But with the potential for us mak- ing up that in market share.” Qantas sees domestic business travel recovery 3 months behind leisure market By Jamie Freed, Reuters News Rival Air New Zealand Ltd last month said domestic business travel was back to 90% of normal levels, though fares were more heavily discounted than before the pandemic. Domestic business travel de- mand in Australia and New Zea- land, which have nearly eliminat- ed COVID-19 transmission, is far better than in many other markets where infection levels are not as controlled. The Global Business Travel As- sociation last month released a poll of companies from the United States, Europe and Latin America that 69% had suspended most or all domestic business travel, up 5 percentage points from February. In contrast to the brighter domes- tic outlook, Qantas has grounded its international fleet until at least Oct. 31, with the exception of travel to New Zealand as part of a two-way bubble starting on April 19. The Australian government on Sunday abandoned its target of vaccinating the population by the end of October. Joyce said that Qantas was still planning for inter- national travel to resume then, but that it would be flexible.