Soybeans. It just can’t grow enough of them.
That could blunt the impact of one of the biggest weapons the country wields in a trade fight with the United States.
Beijing placed a 25 percent tariff on American soybeans this month in retaliation for the Trump administration’s levies on Chinese-made goods. Last year, soy growers in the United States sold nearly one-third of their harvest to China. In dollar terms, only airplanes are a more significant American export to China, the world’s second-largest economy.
Still, soy-producing states like Iowa and Illinois might not feel the tariffs’ impact right away. China buys so much soy from the United States — $14bn last year — that it can hardly switch to new suppliers overnight. Foreign-grown soybeans are a key source both of low-cost protein for feeding livestock and of cooking oil for Chinese kitchens.
China is pressing its own farmers to grow more. But the math is daunting, and the obstacles are formidable.
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