WASHINGTON (B)--The U.S. Department of Agriculture raised its 2001-02 marketing year forecast for U.S. soybean exports June 12 to a record 995 million bushels, according to the department's monthly supply and demand report.

That's a 15-million-bushel increase from USDA's May forecast and is based on indications of stronger foreign import demand, it said.

Along with the increased export forecast, USDA also put the 2001-02 crush at 1.645 billion bushels, up from last month's prediction of 1.625 billion. "The increase in crush is attributed to larger U.S. meal export prospects as competitors switch from meal exports to soybeans," USDA said.

USDA said soymeal exports from countries such as Brazil and Argentina will be weaker than previously expected.

"Energy shortages in Brazil are expected to limit crush expansion slightly, while weak crush margins in Argentina are expected to slow crush gains."

U.S. soymeal exports in the 2001-02 marketing year are now forecast at 7.15 million short tons, up from USDA's May prediction of 6.75 million. The forecast for U.S. soyoil exports was raised slightly to 1.8 million pounds, up from 1.7 million in May.

USDA lowered its 2001-02 forecast for soybean ending stocks to 440 million bushels, a 60-million-bushel decrease from the May outlook.

Traders generally expected USDA to leave its 2001-02 soybean production forecast unchanged, and that's exactly what the department did. The expectation for U.S. soybean output remains 2.985 billion bushels. The estimate for the 2000-01 crop is 2.77 billion bushels.

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