By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader, a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean check-off.
In 2021, soybean exports from the United States set new records. “It is wonderful to see people around the world recognizing the value and reliability of U.S. Soy,” said Jim Sutter, U.S. Soybean Export Council CEO. “We experienced very good global demand, and we had a record year last year for both soybean production and soy exports. This is exciting because we had a wide range of countries purchasing our soybeans. They did not all go to just one or two countries.”
Geographically, export growth is widely distributed around the globe, but China does play a large role. “The distribution is spread out around the globe,” said Sutter. “China is a significant part of our exports, but people need to remember that China is a huge factor in the global soybean market. 60% of all the soybeans that leave one country and go to another, so of international trade, 60% ends up in China. That is not the case for the United States as our share is not that large. This past year when we set a record in total, we did not set a record to China, but we set records in several other markets.” Those markets include: Central America and Mexico, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, Egypt, South Asia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and places like Korea and Japan have seen continued growth.
“Market diversification is critical,” said Sutter. “A few years ago, when we had the trade war with China we got a wake-up call. We had been diversifying our markets prior to that, but not enough. Diversification was not a new concept for us. It just helped us focus our efforts to make sure we are diversifying and also focus on emerging markets. We think there is a lot of growth potential. They have relatively large populations, they have growing per capita consumption, economies that are increasing. Those are markets ripe for increasing demand.”
As those emerging markets and developing countries improve their standard of living and the citizens have more money, they want to improve their diets and eat more meat and use cooking oil. Soybeans can help fill both those desires. The bean meal is used to feed the livestock, poultry and fish that they consume, and soybean oil is allows for a healthy cooking option.
Sustainability is an important factor in the story that the soybean industry is able to share. “It has been an interesting ride when it comes to the soybean sustainability question,” said Sutter. “Over the past ten years we have been learning what sustainability means to our customers and trade partners. The Europeans were the first to ask us about sustainability and if we could provide them with sustainable soybean meal to Europe. The more we learned about what sustainability meant to the customer, the more we realized that the work of American soybean farmers and work with the U.S.D.A. created an extremely sustainable production system in the United States. Rather than being something we had to fight against, we have latched on to sustainability and see it as a real marketing advantage for U.S. soy.”
A tool has been developed called the U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP). “This tool allows an independent group to verify for international buyers that the soybean shipments they are purchasing meet their sustainability standards,” said Sutter. The end consumers want to know how all aspects of the food they consume is being produced based on the multiple aspects of sustainability. This tool can verify that.