A staggering 1.55 billion soy consumers reside in the North Asian countries and the region boasts a growing middle class that is improving and diversifying its diet with an increased consumption of vegetable and animal protein and vegetable oils derived from soy. This expanding middle class currently numbers over 880 million and is led by China, which has a goal of moving a further 300 million consumers from rural lifestyles to urban lifestyles and incomes in the next fifteen years. This development trend portends well for increased soy imports and consumption as Chinese consumption of animal protein and vegetable oil among urban consumers is double that of rural consumers.
With the increase in urban incomes, it is not surprising that U.S. Soy exports of soybeans to China have recorded back-to-back record years exceeding one billion bushels each year. Looking forward, a recently commissioned USSEC research report on future soy consumption and imports indicates annual soybean imports will increase between 110 to 183 million bushels per year for the next five years.
The crushing sectors in Japan and Taiwan both increased their imports of commodity soybeans. In Japan, imports of U.S. soybeans increased 11 percent, equivalent to over 6.9 million bushels, and increasing the U.S. market share to over 65 percent. In Taiwan, the imports increased by more than 400 million bushels, pushing the market share for U.S. soybeans over 50 percent. Taiwan remains a strong destination for containerized soybeans with over 35 percent of its bulk U.S. soybean imports arriving in Taiwan in containers.
Exports of value-added IP soybeans to the North Asia region continue to chalk up successes. In Japan, the market share for U.S. soybeans in the food sector increased to 48 percent in 2014, with an increased volume of over 918,000 bushels of value-added U.S. soybeans. This increase in Japanese demand comes after nearly ten years of committed marketing efforts in Japan to reclaim market share lost to Canada and other suppliers. In Korea, USSEC’s efforts working with various industry segments to utilize U.S. soybean tariff rate quotas (TRQ) under the Korea-U.S. FTA has led to a 95 percent utilization of this preferential TRQ.
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As a part of special series of projects for the U.S. Soy Industry’s 60th Anniversary in Japan, USSEC organized a dialogue with the U.S. Embassy – Tokyo to discuss U.S. Soy Sustainability and women’s empowerment, concentrating on the program focusing on Japanese women in the soy industry and creating preference and differentiating the U.S. Soy Advantage across the entire value chain.
USSEC North Asia Regional Human Utilization (HU) Coordinator and Japan HU Director Masako Masi Tateishi invited Rachel Nelson, U.S. Embassy Tokyo Agricultural Trade Office (ATO) Director, to an interview-style meeting, facilitated by the Japanese business and economics newspaper Nikkei, which covered the story in its popular section, “Marunouchi Career Academy” during its evening January 30 issue. The section organizes various enlightenment activities such as promotional events, seminars, and dialogues in Japan to connect business professionals and companies for the purpose of career empowerment.
The U.S. Soy dialogue included efforts made through cooperation between the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) Tokyo and USSEC, plus the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Women in Agriculture program to introduce how the U.S. agriculture industry enhances and supports women’s careers in agricultural industries. USSEC also provided an assessment of the current status of the Japanese soybean industry as it pertains to women.
Ms. Nelson and Ms. Tateishi were nominated to serve on the judges’ panel for the national natto competition to be held in Kyoto, Japan on February 24. USSEC will continue to collaborate with FAS Tokyo on the topic of sustainability in the U.S. and Japanese soybean industries.
USSEC participated in the 11th China International Oils and Oilseeds Conference in south China’s Guangzhou City on November 9. American Soybean Association (ASA) director Sam Butler served as one of the panelists to discuss U.S. soybean production, soybean price trends, and the oils and oilseeds market.
The insights brought by domestic and international guest speakers attracted more than 1,000 participants to the event, including all of U.S. Soy’s key local customers and many of their downstream feed traders and dealers. The presentations delivered by U.S. soybean growers providing the latest soybean production information in the U.S. and elaborating on U.S. farmers’ marketing strategies were well received by the audience and the organizers. U.S. soybean growers presented the methods and techniques used in U.S. sustainable agriculture and reassured the Chinese audience, especially the end users, of the present and future reliability and sustainability of the U.S. soybean supply.
After the conference, Mr. Butler travelled to south China’s Guangxi province to visit two local customers, including Great Ocean Oils & Grains Industries (Fangchenggang) Co., Ltd., of Yihai Kerry Group and Huiyu Grains and Oils Industry Co., Ltd., of Jiusan Group (Huiyu Company) in Fangchenggang city. He discussed U.S. soybean production and quality in 2015 and 2016 with executives from the two local oil producers and stressed that amino acids are a better measure to evaluate the protein profile. Xiaoping Zhang, USSEC Country Director – China; Dr. Richard Han, USSEC Technical Director – Animal Utilization; and Yantian Zeng, USSEC Marketing Program Manager, escorted Mr. Butler on the two-day trip.
The China International Oils and Oilseeds Conference is an annual event jointly organized by Dalian Commodity Exchange (DCE) and Bursa Malaysia since 2006. The conference provides industry professionals with the latest oils and oilseeds information across a wide spectrum including production, processing and market outlook, among others. USSEC has sponsored this conference for more than 8 years.
USSEC recently participated in the 57th Japanese Vegetable Oil Industry New Year Event, kicking off 2017. Japan Oilseed Processors Association (JOPA), Japan Rice Bran Oil Industry Association, Japan Margarine Industry Association, Japan Oil & Fat Importers & Exporters Association, Japan Oil & Fat Wholesalers’ Association, and Japan Mayonnaise Manufacturers’ Association jointly organized this event. Nearly 500 particpants, ranging from oil manufacturers, wholesalers, traders, governments, and other relevant industries, attended this large event to pledge further progress of the Japanese vegetable oil industry together.
USSEC Country Director – Japan Mitsuyuki Nishimura, and Masako Tateishi, USSEC North Asia Regional Human Utilization Coordinator and HU Director – Japan represented the U.S. Soy industry.
During a congratulatory speech made by Takao Imamura, chairman of JOPA, and president and representative director of Nisshin Oillio Group, several important matters were noted as to what the Japanese vegetable oil industry needs to promptly prepare in order to respond to possible changes in external environments in 2017, including the next U.S. president’s plan to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and a possible transition to direct discussion, an evaluation plan of mandatory country of origin labeling for all Japanese processed foods, and a plan for mandatory implementation of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) for food safety in Japan. Mr. Imamura also stressed the importance of further growing vegetable oil and sustainability demands throughout the industry because a vital food source is necessary in order for all generations to maintain health and to adjust proper physical function.
During a conversation between JOPA, USSEC, and the Foreign Agricultural Services (FAS) Tokyo team during the reception, the executive director of JOPA, Akira Saito, said, ”One of JOPA’s goals for 2017 is to restore soybean oil demands so that we are going to further consolidate our U.S. – Japan partnership. Let’s take a group photo to pledge such cooperation!!”
In 2015, Japan imported over 3.24 million metric tons (MT) of soybeans, of which U.S. enjoys a 72 percent market share. USSEC Japan will continue to work with the Japanese vegetable oil and soyfoods industries, both of which are essential ingredients for Japanese foods.
USSEC’s partnership activities with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) paid off this year when Korea’s largest trade organization of food-grade soybean end-users announced they would require the U.S. Soybean Sustainability Protocol (SSAP) certificate. In its March 2016 tender announcement for 7,651 metric tons (MT) of U.S. non-GMO identity preserved soybeans, the Korea Federation of Tofu Cooperatives (KFTC) added the certificates to the list of documents suppliers must provide.
Wisconsin-headquartered DeLong Company, as well as Knewtson Soy Products in Minnesota, both USSEC members, are two of the 45 companies spanning 17 states that are pre-registered to use SSAP certificates.
DeLong’s Brandon Bickham, a USSEC director, says, “We are using the SSAP in Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Vietnam as a marketing tool from our side and at our customers’ request in some instances.”
“The large customers seem to want everything that is available to them for advertising and food safety image,” says Wayne Knewtson, president of Knewtson Soy Products.
Launched in 2013, the SSAP allows U.S. exporters to efficiently and cost-effectively communicate the sustainability of U.S. Soy to buyers worldwide. In January 2016, soy exports certified through the SSAP hit a record two million metric tons in the 2015/16 marketing year. The SSAP provides U.S. Soy exporters with proof of, among other sustainability-related criteria, reductions in energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and soil erosion of soybeans produced in the United States.
USSEC’s Market Access Program (MAP) – funded efforts include bringing a team of Korean soybean crushing and feed mill buyers to the United States to learn about the superior quality of U.S. soybeans as well as their sustainability. With USDA Foreign Market Development (FMD) funds, USSEC staff also conducts seminars and other trade servicing activities in North Asia and other locations where they highlight the sustainability of U.S. Soy.
USSEC traveled to northeastern China’s soy-growing province of Heilongjiang to hold workshops and exchange market information with local soy growers on December 13 and 14.
Three experts including Chen Beier, senior vice president of R. J. O’Brien’s Asia department; Hanver Li, chairman of Shanghai JC Intelligence; and Liu Zhaofu, founder and general manager of the soy portal website Dadou.cn, were invited by USSEC to speak to local soybean growers in the snow-covered Nenjiang county of Heilongjiang province.
The USSEC team was received by Li Tiehui, deputy chief of the agricultural authority of Nenjiang County, who escorted the team to a local cooperative farm on December 13 and an agricultural technology service center on the 14th.
In the workshops, Nenjiang soy growers shared with USSEC their concerns over market uncertainties, increased competition from domestic soy growers from other parts of the country, and soybean price drops. Some expressed pessimism over the short-term future. In response to their concerns, USSEC consultants not only delivered presentations to introduce some of the U.S. soybean industry’s experience and practice in dealing with the challenges and problems which are common to soy growers from all over the world, but also shared some practical industry-leading techniques in analyzing the soybean market and predicting future trends.
One soy grower shared his personal experience of rushing into the options market ten years ago without sufficient knowledge to guide his way, only to suffer a loss of five million renminbi (RMB) in a rash attempt. USSEC consultant Bell Chen, a seasoned options trading professional from the oldest and largest independent futures brokerage and clearing firm in the U.S., encouraged him to start from the basics and pay particular attention to the most up-to-date techniques necessary to calculate the odds and reduce risks.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Li said he would like to express gratitude on behalf of the Nenjiang government to USSEC for its continued contribution to the local economy through sharing some of the U.S. soybean industry’s best practices, and offering local soy growers ready-to-use practical knowledge in protecting themselves against market volatility.