Although U.S. soybeans got a slow start to the 2015/16 marketing year, sales and shipments have picked up in the second half of the season. it will be an unprecedented feat if the United States can ship the full forecast.

For the week ending July 21, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that the world’s second-largest soybean supplier had shipped 45.56 million tonnes of soybeans since Sept. 1.

As it stands, this figure falls far short of USDA’s 2015/16 soybean export target of 48.85 million tonnes, especially with just 40 days left in the current marketing year.

This means that in the final six weeks of the 2015/16 campaign, the United States must ship a blistering 575,752 tonnes of soybeans per week. Never before has this pace been achieved at this time of the year.

The record for soybean shipments in the final six weeks of the year is held by the 2011/12 season, corresponding to July and August 2012. Perhaps not coincidentally, that was the most recent occurrence of U.S. soybeans sustaining lower prices than Brazilian ones throughout July.

But the current marketing year has nearly 50 percent more outstanding sales on the books than was the case at the same point in 2012. So U.S. exporters must comfortably exceed 2012’s record end-of-year pace in order to reach USDA’s estimate.

Speed bumps

The current discount to the Brazilian product will help in keeping the stream of soybeans moving out of the United States, but speed bumps are beginning to emerge.

The week ending July 21 was the first one since late January in which net soybean sales for the current marketing year were negative, implying that buyers may be growing wary of the United States' ability to deliver on all the bookings.

Further, almost two-thirds of outstanding soybean sales are to “unknown” buyers, and this quantity is more than double what it has ever been at this point in the marketing year. Some analysts theorize that unidentified buyers may feel more comfortable switching sources and therefore more cancellations could arise if a large amount of unknown buyers exist toward the tail end of the season.

It would not be surprising to see USDA revise downward its forecast for 2015/16 soybean exports given the steepness of the climb to its current target.

Regardless of what happens over the next few weeks, the United States will ship its second-largest annual soybean volume ever during the 2015/16 marketing year, trailing only the previous year.