The U.S. soybean crush fell to an 11-month low in August and was below almost all trade estimates, while end-of-month soyoil stocks dropped to a nearly six-year low, according to National Oilseed Processors Association (NOPA) data released on Friday.
NOPA members, which account for around 95% of U.S. soybean crushings, processed 161.453 million bushels of soybeans last month, down 6.8% from the 173.303 million bushels processed in July and 2.5% lower than the August 2022 crush of 165.538 million bushels.
More widespread processor downtime than expected limited the crush, denting demand at the same time that U.S. exports of the oilseed have struggled to compete with record-large Brazilian shipments, analysts said.
Benchmark soybean futures Sv1 on the Chicago Board of Trade fell 1.5% on Friday.
The crush is typically near its lowest point of the year in August as processors idle plants for seasonal maintenance ahead of the harvest and as supplies of soybeans from the prior season's harvest are drawn down.
The crush was well below the average trade estimate of 167.802 million bushels in a Reuters survey.
NOPA data showed a sharp year-on-year drop in crushing in August in Iowa, the No. 2 soybean state, and a moderate decline in the Southwest.
The average estimate was 6.35 million bushels above the actual value, the largest miss since June 2021, according to NOPA and Reuters polling data.
The crush industry's recent capacity expansion and adverse weather such as last month's Midwest heat wave and hurricane rains that disrupted transportation in the Southeast, made pinning down the August crush more difficult, some analysts said.
Also, active crushing over recent months amid strong processing margins left more facilities in dire need of maintenance, they said.
"When you've had margins over $2 a bushel and you're cranking out profits, going into the next harvest you have to throttle back to get ready," said Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities. "I expect it to bounce back pretty soon."
Soyoil supplies among NOPA members as of Aug. 30 thinned to 1.250 billion pounds, the lowest end-of-month oil stocks since October 2017.
The slower crush and strong soyoil demand from renewable fuels producers whittled down oil stocks, analysts said.
NOPA members' oil supplies were down 18.2% from the end of July and down 20.1% from the end of August last year.
Analysts had expected a much smaller drop in soyoil stocks to 1.483 billion pounds.
Written by Karl Plume for Reuters
Reporting by Karl Plume; Editing by Aurora Ellis