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UPDATE 1-China's July soy imports hit near 1-year high on better crush margins - customs

margins - customs@ (Adds analyst comment, background)

BEIJING, Aug 8 (Reuters) - China's soybean imports in July rose 8% from last year, to their highest level in almost a year, customs data showed on Thursday, as importers increased their purchases of Brazilian beans on higher crush margins.

China brought in 8.64 million tonnes of soybeans in July, up from 8 million in the same month last year, the General Administration of Customs said. That is up 33% from 6.51 million tonnes in June and the highest since August 2018.

The July imports were below market expectations, as some cargoes booked earlier were delayed, analysts said.

"The main reasons for high imports were that, earlier, crush margins of South American beans were higher and we were in peak supply season in the production regions," said Shi Hengyu, chief analyst of vegetable oils at Luzheng Futures.

"The figures were still a bit lower than expected, as offloading at the ports was delayed as crushers were operating at lower rate due to poor demand for meals," Shi said.

The crush margin, or profit from producing soymeal and soyoil from the bean, rose in May, when booking for July cargoes typically takes place.

The crush margins in the soybean processing hub of Shandong province in northern China jumped to 74 yuan ($10.51) a tonne on May 29 from minus 321.67 yuan a month earlier. <CNSOY-RZO-MRG> (Reporting by Hallie Gu and Tom Daly; editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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