CHICAGO, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Chinese importers bought a small number of bulk soybean cargoes on Wednesday for shipment in December and January from the U.S. Gulf Coast and Brazilian ports, analysts and an export trader said.
The purchases of around 3 to 4 cargoes, or up to about 240,000 tonnes, came after a sharp drop in prices on Tuesday as benchmark Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures fell nearly 2%.
Importers in China, the world's top soy buyer, have booked more Brazilian soybean shipments than normal this year during the traditional fall U.S. soy export season amid high U.S. prices and a stronger dollar.
Confirmed U.S. soybean purchases by China from this year's harvest totaled about 19.7 million tonnes as of Nov. 18, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture data, compared with almost 29.2 million tonnes at the same point last year.
"With the dive (in prices) that we had, they are looking to secure more soybeans. Their crush is profitable," said Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities in West Des Moines, Iowa.
"They've been buying from South America and the U.S., but our window for sales is closing so we've got to get busy. Come February, we are not the main exporter any more. It starts to switch pretty heavily over to South America," he said.
China has around 85% of its estimated December soybean purchases booked, along with about half of its January needs, one U.S. export trader said.
(Reporting by Karl Plume and Julie Ingwersen in Chicago; Editing by Stephen Coates)