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* China soybean crushers losing money on processing
* Losses plunge to worst in nearly three years
* Want to delay or cancel soybean imports -sources
* Soybean imports expected to decline in third quarter
By Naveen Thukral and Dominique Patton
SINGAPORE/BEIJING, May 31 (Reuters) - China's soybean importers are pushing to postpone or cancel cargoes mainly ordered from suppliers in Brazil as they rack up hefty losses processing the commodity into cooking oil and animal feed ingredients, said three trade sources.
China, which buys around 60 percent of soybeans traded worldwide, took advantage of strong crushing profits at the beginning of the year and lower prices following bumper harvests in Brazil to aggressively buy the oilseed.
But those profits have swung to the biggest losses in nearly three years after China's edible oil markets were flooded with rapeseed oil auctioned from national reserves and by growing imports of other alternative vegetable oils.
"Several importers are trying to delay shipments, even the big companies are asking shippers to delay," said a soybean trader, declining to be identified as he was not authorised to speak with media.
Soybean crushers in Shandong province, a key production hub in the country's east, were this week losing 292 yuan ($43) on each tonne of soybeans processed JCI-SBMG-SHDNI, the worst since September 2014.
"Some are even trying to washout cargoes but it is unlikely to be widespread," the trader continued, using the industry term for cancelling cargoes with the seller's consent.
"It is very difficult to get the exact number on cancellations, but I think it will not be more than five to seven panamax cargoes."
Each panamax-sized vessel carries about 60,000 tonnes of soybeans, representing processing losses of about $2.58 million if crushed in Shandong.
Consultancy Shanghai JC Intelligence said last week that four to five cargoes for May and June loading were cancelled, with another two or three resold to neighbouring countries.
"Many importers are keen to washout cargoes, but they will not able to do that as everyone is heavily booked," said a Singapore-based trader at an international trading company with soybean processing facilities in China.
Chinese bean imports stood at 8.02 million tonnes in April, a record for the month, customs data showed. That marked the fourth straight time imports had set records for their respective months.
Imports in May and June will likely to hit around 9 to 9.5 million tonnes as previously booked cargoes arrive, sources said.
"The industry is suffering a lot, especially the smaller players," said the Singapore-based trader.
"We have had big arrivals and this will continue until at least June or July, shipments will decline after that."
In July, soybean cargo arrivals at Chinese ports are expected to drop to about 8 million tonnes with further declines seen in the rest of the third quarter. ($1 = 6.8365 Chinese yuan renminbi)
Reporting by Naveen Thukral in Singapore and Dominique Patton in Beijing; Editing by Joseph Radford