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story.lead_photo.caption A farmhouse sits surrounded by soybean fields in September in Locust Hill, Va. U.S. shipments of soybeans to Iran have increased significantly since July.

Escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran haven't impeded a surge in soybean business that resulted from China's decision to shun American shipments as part of the nations' trade dispute.

Since July, 11 American soybean cargoes with a combined 750,602 metric tons have headed to Iran, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show. That's up fivefold from a year earlier. Confirmed deliveries in the nine months ended Aug. 31 were at 166,348 tons, according to the latest U.S. figures.

China, the world's top oilseed buyer, introduced tariffs on U.S. soybeans in July. Since then, as the U.S. has turned to other markets to sell its soybeans, Iran has been the fifth-largest importer of American supplies, USDA inspection data show.

The increase in U.S. sales to Iran came despite the tensions between the two countries, which escalated after President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the countries' nuclear agreement. As the rhetoric between the countries intensified, Trump took to Twitter in July to blast Iranian President Hassan Rouhani over what the U.S. leader described as "demented words of violence."

Even as Trump posted his July 22 tweet, a cargo of U.S. soybeans was crossing the Atlantic Ocean en route to Iran. The U.S. in August announced trade sanctions that target the Middle Eastern country but exclude agricultural commodities.

The Vita Future, the bulk carrier sailing while Trump was tweeting, departed Bunge North America's grain elevator in Destrehan, La., on July 9 and arrived in Iran's Bandar Imam Khomeini port on Aug. 25.

Ten of the 11 soybean shipments to Iran have been from the Mississippi region's export elevators, transported down to the lower Mississippi River by barge or by rail from the soybean states in the U.S. heartland. The Antigoni, Anna S and Seajoy bulk carriers are currently in transit to Iran.

Soybean futures have dropped 9.3 percent this year in Chicago. The Trump administration plans to provide $12 billion in aid to U.S. farmers hurt by the trade war with China.

Other major soybean markets have been caught up in the shift in global trade flows. Brazil has benefited by increasing sales to China. And almost 170,000 tons of U.S. supplies are heading to Argentina after a drought reduced output in the South American nation, the top producer of animal feed made from the oilseed.

Business on 10/24/2018

Print Headline: Tensions with Iran don't hit soybeans

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