News: North Asia
USSEC recently participated in the 2nd Tofu Competition and the 6th Japan Tofu Shop Summit in Kumamoto City, Kumamto Prefecture, Japan. A record 270 participants, including tofu companies, soy wholesalers, and government leaders from throughout Japan attended the event. The event was organized by Zentoren and the General Incorporated Foundation National Federation of Tofu, and was sponsored by USSEC; the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; and Zen-noh. National and local TV stations, including NHK, also participated.
USSEC Country Director – Japan Mitsuyuki Nishimura and Human Utilization Director Masi Tateishi represented USSEC.
This event offered younger leaders in Japan’s tofu industry the opportunity to interact with each other and learn about products and marketing to educate the next generation of leaders to be successful and sustainable. In 1960, the number of tofu shops in Japan was 51,596, but was down to 8,017 in 2014. This reduction demonstrates that tofu is the most fragmented and artisanal business with the highest numbers of players in the Japanese food industry. Thus, product innovation and sustainability is the key for survival in next generation. The discussion for the 2016 Tofu Summit also included upcoming new fair competition rules, a case study of image branding, and “Tofu Meister” progress.
Mr. Nishimura gave a guest speech followed by special guest Yoshimasa Hayashi, the former Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, emphasizing the U.S. Soy advantage with impending record high production. Ms. Tateishi participated as a judge at the tofu competition and tasted 107 different tofus. The total numbers of entries this year was 668, 5 times larger than last year, when preliminary contests conducted in 7 regions across Japan throughout the year had selected the 107 finalists.
The top three prizes were given. First place was presented to the Japan Nutrition School Lunch Association, Tochigi Prefecture; second place went to Tofu Kobo Ajika, Gunma Prefecture; and Tominari Goro Shoten, Nagano Prefecture was awarded third place.
Zentoren announced that the 7th Tofu Summit to be held in Tokyo in December 2017.
USSEC, in coordination with Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Tokyo and Agricultural Trade Office (ATO), recognized the best tofu using 100 percent imported U.S. Soy, beginning in 2016. The inaugural award was given to Satonoyuki Shokuhin/ Shikoku Kakoki of Tokushima Prefecture.
“I am very honored to be selected [to receive] the first commemorative U.S. Soy Ambassador Award,” stated Makoto Murao, executive director of Satonoyuki. “Our company has been using U.S. Soy for many years and thus we have been closely communicating with U.S. Soy farmers in various regions of the U.S. . .we learned U.S. Soy growers produce safe and reliable, high protein, high yield and highly suitable soy for tofu making.”
“I view [the U.S. Soy Ambassador Award] as giving us precious opportunities to convey those excellent messages about U.S. Soy farmers to our Japanese consumers as well,” he continued. “Currently, our company contracts with excellent soybean farmers in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Ohio. Recent U.S. soybean quality has improved greatly and because of it, we are able to manufacturer higher quality tofu. We believe long-term communication with those U.S. soybean farmers and our mutual understanding led to winning this award, and we are very appreciative. We look forward to sharing this happiness with those U.S. farmers.”
USSEC is currently preparing an event for the winners in coordination with FAS and ATO Tokyo. Japan, a large consumer of tofu products, used nearly 477,000 metric tons (MT) of non-GMO identity preserved (IP) soybeans in 2015. Over 42 percent of the soybeans used for tofu are from the U.S. whose market share increased 7 percent from 2012 to 2017. USSEC Japan will continue to work with and support Japan’s tofu industry by establishing a U.S. Soy Ambassador Sustainability Award in the near future to optimize the use and value of sustainable U.S. Soy.
To watch a video of this event, please click here.
USSEC China organized the 2016 Feed Processing Training Course to Kansas State University From September 18 – 25. Course topics included using soybean products efficiently, feed processing, and feed mill management, among others. The team also visited a dairy farm, Countryside Feed LLC, and the Kansas Soybean Association.
15 team members from China livestock integrators, top ten feed mills, and a feed additive company attended this activity. Participants not only learned advanced feed processing technology, but also viewed the processing of U.S. soybeans and soybean products. The delegation witnessed the sustainability of U.S. soybean production, quality and reliable supply firsthand.
Representatives from the Global Soy in Aquaculture Program attended Global Aquaculture Alliance’s GOAL 2016 conference in Guangzhou, China, September 20 – 22.
USSEC Marketing Director – Aquaculture Colby Sutter and USSEC China Aquaculture Program Manager Jim Zhang and USSEC China Freshwater Aquaculture Technical Manager Zhou Enhua were joined by United Soybean Board (USB) director Dan Farney and American Soybean Association (ASA) director Dan Roe to participate in the program focused on “Healthy Fish, Healthy People and Healthy Planet.”
Mr. Zhang’s presentation on “Trends in Intensive Pond Aquaculture,” detailing the many benefits of the Intensive Pond Aquaculture (IPA) technology introduced to China by USSEC’s aquaculture program, received immediate interest in the technology from Chinese producers as well as the many other international representatives attending the conference.
USSEC Japan collaborated on an event organized by the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in Tokyo on June 14. The “U.S. Food Ingredients Nutrition Seminar for the Care Food Industry” reached out to those providing food for aging populations.
The conference’s goal was to introduce delicious, nutritious, and easy to cook recipes as well as information about the nutrition, safety, and versatility of stable-supply ingredients for the care food industry, which is expected to further expand in the future due to Japan’s aging society.
During her opening address, Agricultural Trade Office (ATO) Director, Rachel Nelson said, “People over the age of 65 make up a quarter of the Japanese population. Japan is a very important market for the U.S., as Japan imports about $13 billion (USD) of agriculture and food ingredients annually.”
The seminar’s audience included food manufacturers and caterers providing food for aging clients as well as nutritionists at care facilities. In addition to USSEC, U.S. cooperators included the U.S. Meat Export Federation, the U.S. Poultry & Egg Export Council, and the Alaskan Seafood Marketing Council, among others.
Two technical speakers discussed the benefits of nuts, fruits, seafood, meat, and soy for the aging population and how to incorporate these foods into healthy diets. They also highlighted the nutritional components Omega 3, polyphenols, high quality protein, and fiber.
USSEC North Asia Regional Human Utilization (HU) Manager & Japan HU Director Masi Tateishi promoted U.S. Soy’s superior advantage by discussing its sustainability and stable supply using a display of soy ingredients and marketing materials.
USSEC believes demographic trends in Japan appear favorable for the care food industry as well as for the soy industry due to soy’s high nutritional value. It is vital to continue to communicate such value provides beyond basic nutrition to both the Japanese industry and society.
USSEC hosted a crop tour team comprised of 20 Chinese guests, representing some of the largest buyers of U.S. Soy.
This annual trip aims to help these key buyers and decision makers for very large importers and crushers of U.S. Soy to understand the U.S. logistics system. Additionally, one of the team’s principal goals is to gather firsthand information on the current year soy production situation in terms of crop size and quality to get an advanced view of U.S. crop conditions ahead of the harvest. Gathering these facts helps these important guests to further strengthen their confidence in U.S. Soy and to make better purchasing decisions. These missions are increasingly important as consumers demand additional, varying, high quality products.
The entire group visited the New Orleans area on September 6, stopping at Zen-noh Grain in Convent, Louisiana and Blue Water Shipping in Metairie, Louisiana. They arrived in St. Louis on September 7, and split into two groups traveling to different parts of the U.S. to maximize their industry interaction/farm visits.
On September 8, Group A visited Bruns Farms in Corso, Missouri and the Bay Research Farm, where they viewed the lab and learned about its research capacity, discussing technology and breeding, before visiting the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. They finished the day at Nathan Alpers’ farm and grain handling facilities in Prairie Home, Missouri.
That same day, Group B visited Illinois Soybean Association director Tim Seifert’s farm in Auburn, Illinois, and Doug Harford’s farm in Mazon, Illinois.
Group A next headed to Fordyce Farms in Bethany, Missouri on September 9. Richard Fordyce is the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture and his wife, Renee, is the District One director for the Missouri Soybean Association. They then traveled to Tarkio, MO to meet with Brooks Hurst, current American Soybean Association director and Vice President of the Missouri Soybean Association board.
Group B visited the Illinois Soybean Association that day before traveling to Doug Schroeder Farms, Illinois Soybean Association District 11 director, in Bellflower, Illinois.
On September 10, Group A experienced the downtown farmers market in Des Moines, Iowa, before visiting Iowa Soybean Association director Tim Bardole’s farm in Rippey, Iowa.
Meanwhile, Group B met with the Indiana Soybean Alliance.
Group A next journeyed to United Soybean Board (USB) and Iowa Soybean Association director April Hemmes’ farms, Hampton, Iowa on September 11, following that visit with one to the farm of the Ziegler family farm, where they also enjoyed dinner at the host’s lake house.
USB director and Meal Target Area Coordinator Mike Beard of Frankfort, Indiana hosted Group B at his farm, before they traveled to Indiana Corn Growers Association director Herb Ringel’s farm in Wabash, Indiana and Indiana Soybean Alliance director Tom Griffith’s farm in Kendallville, Indiana, also on September 11.
On September 12, Group A had the opportunity to visit Minnesota Soybean Growers Association director Ray Hewitt’s farm in Le Sueur, Minnesota; the Central Farm Service in Delavan, Minnesota; and the Fairmont, Minnesota farm of American Soybean Association (ASA) director Lawrence Sukalski.
That same day Group B visited Ohio’s Legacy Farmers Co-op before heading to USB Vice Chairman John Motter’s farm in Jenera, Ohio and ASA director Bret Davis’ place in Delaware, Ohio. At both farms, the group enjoyed presentations from DuPont Pioneer, Cargill, Interstate Commodities as well as local co-ops and farmer groups.
September 13 was a travel day, with both groups joining back together, before holding market outlook meetings on the 14th. The team headed to Kalama Export Terminal in Kalama, Washington on September 15, in a tour arranged by USSEC member Gavilon.
USSEC Stakeholder Relations Coordinator Eric Gibson escorted the group on several legs of the mission and remarked on their enthusiasm.
“This was one of the most enthusiastic trade groups I’ve had the privilege of working with. Back home, in China, many of these folks work for competing companies, but I witnessed them working together in the fields and corresponding with one another over the U.S. Soy crop,” he said. “The rain, mud and muck didn’t keep our guests from getting out into the fields and interacting closely with our farmers who were gracious enough to volunteer their time during such a busy time of the year.”
USSEC Stakeholder Relations Manager Will McNair described the group’s enthusiasm in the field and their questioning of local farmers: “They really wanted to know how U.S. farmers were making their planting decisions and what current prices mean to their profitability and long-term farm sustainability.” He added, “They were really interested in the level of sophistication of the U.S. farmers. Although these were savvy buyers with a broad understanding of the U.S. ag sector, they were surprised to find that the U.S. farmers were equally savvy and knowledgeable about the trade and where their beans go.”
On September 13, U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman informed China that the U.S. has launched a formal complaint at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over China’s price supports for corn, wheat and rice, saying they distort world markets and are costing U.S. farmers hundreds of millions of dollars.
If you receive questions about this news, USSEC is providing guidance to help frame discussions:
- China is a very important market for U.S. Soy and soy products. USSEC has 35 years of experience working in cooperation with Chinese organizations to develop a mutually beneficial trade relationship. Last year, nearly 25 percent of the U.S. Soy crop was exported to China, and China accounted for about 46 percent of total exports of U.S. Soy.
- USSEC remains a committed partner in sustainably and safely producing soybeans for China’s oilseed security. USSEC recently welcomed members of the Chinese soybean industry to the U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange in Indianapolis. Additionally, two Chinese trade teams recently traveled in the Midwest to view the U.S. Soy crop.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to USSEC Communications Manager Lisa Humphreys, USSEC Marketing Director – Market Access / Freedom to Operate Roz Leeck, or USSEC CEO Jim Sutter.
USSEC is among the 23 U.S. agribusinesses and organizations that are accompanying U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Deputy Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services Alexis Taylor, along with the leaders from seven state departments of agriculture, on a trade mission to Hong Kong and Shanghai September 7 – 15 to extend USDA’s Women in Agriculture initiative abroad and expand export opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products.
“USDA is committed to building opportunities for women to grow, learn from one another and lead within their industries,” said Taylor. “Women in agriculture have a powerful story to tell – one of leadership, stewardship and resilience – from the combine, to the classroom, to the boardroom. This trade mission provides us an opportunity to discuss the impacts women in the United States and China are having on agriculture and to share our visions for the next generation. In addition, I look forward to joining U.S. agricultural leaders as we seek to enhance our trading opportunities in this region.”
The USSEC delegation consists of Heather Feuerstein, Michigan Soybean Association director; Pam Helmsing, USSEC Marketing Director – Animal Nutrition/Meal; Roz Leeck, USSEC Marketing Director – Market Access; and Hanna Abou-El-Seoud, AgSource, Inc.
Mission participants hail from across the U.S. and represent a range of agricultural products and commodities. They will meet with potential customers and host government representatives, forging relationships and learning about the market conditions and business environment.
Chinese importers signed letters of intent to purchase 3.9 million metric tons of new crop U.S. Soy, valued at $1.78 billion, at a signing ceremony held in Indianapolis, Indiana on August 30.
USSEC CEO Jim Sutter welcomed Chinese importers and U.S. exporters to the ceremony.
USSEC Chairman Jim Miller said that China, as the world’s number one soybean consumer, and the U.S., as the number one soybean producer, play critical roles in world soybean trade. “It is our hope that a mutually beneficial and strengthened trade relationship between the industries of both countries will make an even greater contribution to global food security, food safety and a sustainable soy supply.”
After the ceremony, USSEC Vice Chairman Derek Haigwood expressed his congratulations on the business conducted. “Such a partnership has benefited food security, food safety and the sustainable supply of soy in China, and also benefited all stakeholders in the U.S. soybean value chain.
Mr. Sutter proposed a toast at the end of the ceremony to representatives of the whole soy value chain present. “May you all work together for the success of the soy industry and the Chinese industry.”
USSEC teamed up with the International Grains Program (IGP) Institute to teach poultry nutrition training to Japanese industry professionals July 25 – 29 at the IGP Institute Conference Center in Manhattan, Kansas. The partnership between USSEC and the IGP Institute provided participants with education and training on milling practices and U.S. grains.
Eight students from Japan gained knowledge in several areas of poultry nutrition including quality control in a feed mill, batching and mixing, particle size reduction for poultry feed production, broiler breeder nutrition and management, the effects of selected mycotoxins, reducing the toxic effects of mycotoxins in poultry, and nutritional differences between soybean meal sources.
Course participant Takamasa Iijichi, executive director at AXYZ in Kagoshima, Japan says he attended the training program because he was interested in the course topics. He also says he has enjoyed everything in the course, especially the presentation about soybean meal.
“The ideas taught at the IGP Institute help us know how to make our feed more efficiently,” Mr. Ijichi explains.
Participants also attained knowledge through tours around Kansas by visiting Midwest Ag Services in Seneca, Kansas, and a soybean farm at Rezac Land and Livestock near Belvue, Kansas. The Kansas State University O.H. Kruse Feed Technology Center was toured as well.
“I have witnessed the relationship between USSEC and IGP for almost 10 years,” states USSEC consultant Miguel Escobar. “I have seen these courses grow and every time they are more important for our customers around the world.”
USSEC collaborated with the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and two Chinese partners, the China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce & Animal By-products (CFNA) and Dalian Commodity Exchange (DCE) to sponsor the 2016 U.S.-China Grains & Oilseed Forum in Beijing on June 17. This joint event provided a platform for grains and oilseed industry representatives from China and the U.S. to discuss policy and market uncertainties, potential means to address them, and the implications for traders and end users in China.
Invited speakers included Joe Glauber, former chief economist of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); Song Hongyuan, director general of Research Institute of Rural Economy of the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture; Mike Every, chief analyst from Rabobank International Asia; Zhang Jianping, director of Foreign Economies of the National Development and Reform Commission; Hanver Li, President of Shanghai JC Intelligence Co.; Jenny Campbell, chief analyst from DHF; and Bell Chen, senior vice President of Asia Division. USSEC member R.J. O’Brien presented a wide range of topics to about 140 participants from government agencies, research institutes, industry associations, and agribusiness companies from both the U.S. and China. The invited speakers interacted with the audience on many issues such as the global economic and financial situation, non-price support policies, corn and soybean market outlooks, and price risk management recommendations. The Minister Counselor for Agricultural Affairs at the U.S. Embassy, Bruce Zanin, together with senior officials from the event’s co-sponsoring organizations, opened the program to support industries between the two countries in the discussion of improving trade relations for sustainable food security and food safety in China.
American Soybean Association (ASA) director Lawrence Sukalski provided opening remarks on behalf of the U.S. Soy industry, demonstrating U.S. Soy’s commitments to the development of China’s soybean value chain from soybean crushing to feed milling to animal production by long-term cooperation in technology transfer and marketing services.
Prior to the forum in Beijing, Mr. Sukalski was escorted by USSEC Country Director – China Xiaoping Zhang and USSEC Marketing Manager Claudia Chong on several field visits in Qinhuangdao, Hebei Province and Beijing to further enhance the partnership with Yihai Kerry Group, CP Group and Dabeinong Feed Group.
USSEC conducted a series of activities in China to promote the U.S. Soybean Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP) from June 21-24. United Soybean Board (USB) director April Hemmes, a soybean farmer from Iowa, together with Dave White, former chief of Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Marty Matlock, professor at Arkansas University and Jaime Picarra, Secretary General of Portugal Feed Industry Association, traveled to China.
The delegation’s first stop was in Shanghai where USSEC conducted meetings with two key customers, Yihai Kerry Group, the largest crushing group in China, and Shanghai Bright Liangyou Group, a local state-owned crushing and refining group, to encourage them to participate in the SSAP certification program for their U.S. purchases. Both customers recognized the sustainability of U.S. soybean production and obtained SSAP certificates for U.S. soybean shipments. USSEC’s next effort will be to encourage customers to label their products with the “Sustainable U.S. Soy” logo.
USSEC also staged a workshop in Shanghai for about 20 regional feedmillers to introduce the U.S. SSAP system to downstream customers so that they are aware of the availability of such certificates, which could be of great value to their marketing strategy.
In Beijing, USSEC conducted a press conference for 12 mainstream media to introduce them to the SSAP. Participating reporters showed special interest in the legal system and the third party auditing practice.
As the last activity in the series of SSAP promotions, USSEC collaborated with the China Chamber of Commerce for the Import & Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce & Animal By-products (CFNA) to organize the U.S. – China Sustainable Soybean Trade on June 24 for 75 participants, including government agencies from the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the Ministry of Science & Technology (MOST); officials from industry associations such as China National Vegetable Oil Association (CNVOA), China Animal Agriculture Association (CAAA); China Feed Industry Association (CFIA), China National Food Industry Association (CNFIA), and China Soybean Industry Association (CSIA); researchers from the China Academy of Sciences (CAS) and China Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS); managers from seed companies such as Monsanto, Pioneer and Bayer; and executives from soybean importers and exporters such as COFCO, Chinatex, Jiusan, Yuanchen, Agrex and Cargill. Two Chinese speakers joined other speakers in presenting topics on the importance of sustainable soybean trade to China’s food security and food safety, the core value of sustainability to corporate social responsibility, the European Feed Manufacturers’ Association’s (FEFAC) business practice benchmarking SSAP in sourcing soy, the USDA’s long term efforts in conservation, continuous improvement by moving key performance indicators (KPIs), and U.S. growers’ production practices in conservation. Many participants made positive comments on the sustainability certification and several major soybean buyers told USSEC that they are going to request SSAP certificate on every shipment from the U.S.
Dave Cottrel, Director of U.S. Agricultural Affairs Office of the U.S. Embassy, together with Bian Zhenhu, President of CFNA and Ms. Hemmes opened the seminar in Beijing while Katie Woody, Deputy Director of ATO Shanghai opened the workshop in Shanghai.
USSEC recently organized a tour trip to Shanghai, China to visit intensive pond aquaculture (IPA) sites.
The group of 40 visitors came from Egypt, India and Vietnam and attended an IPA seminar on the first day. Dr. Jesse Chappell of Auburn University introduced participants to the principle and concept of IPA. USSEC Aquaculture Program Manager Jim Zhang and USSEC Technical Manager Zhou Enhua provided information about China’s aquaculture industry and the implementation of IPA in China.
The first site visited was a state-owned farm, Maotian Wetland Eco-Agri Investment Co., Ltd., located to the west of Shanghai. Maotian has a total area of about 100 ha. In 2014, Maotian constructed two units of IPA cells in a four ha pond. After the first year’s economic success and efficiency (production increased 20 percent with a 75 percent lower labor cost), the farm manager added two more cells to each IPA unit to create five-cell units. Feed used is mainly USSEC-formulated feed with a U.S. Soy-optimized diet that contains more than 50 percent of U.S. Soy product.
On the second day, participants visited Yancheng Zheng Rong Fisheries Ecological Co., Ltd. This is a private company farm located in Hengji Town, Jianhu of Jiansu province and is currently the largest IPA farm with a 52-cell unit in a 27 ha pond, constructed in 2015. Due to the success of 2015 production (ROI 40 percent, 200 percent increase in production, lower labor cost, especially the flesh quality of fish living in a moving water environment), another IPA system is under construction with a 28-cell unit. In total, Yancheng Zheng Rong built 80 cells for its two IPA units.
A wrap-up meeting among the Vietnamese visitors was conducted by USSEC Vietnam. There was very positive feedback from the group. As a seafood export country, IPA technology could be a positive image for Vietnam to demonstrate to the export market.
USSEC hosted a soybean meal technical seminar, “Soybean Meal and Amino Acid Nutrition” in South Korea on June 9, targeting the technical and purchasing staffs of feed mills and integrators in the Korean swine and broiler sectors. The objective of the seminar was to discuss the importance of amino acid in swine and broiler growth performance and differentiate U.S. soybean meal from South American soybean meals based on amino acid profile.
USSEC hired four local speakers to discuss amino acid and energy requirement; the current and future market situation of the Korean swine industry; the composition of soybean meal and its associated amino acid profiles; and the amino acid digestibility of soybean meal. More than 60 industry participants attended the seminar and listened to USSEC’s message on the amino acid profile of soybean meal.
USSEC emphasized the amino acid profile of U.S. soybean meal in terms of total-, essential- and digestible amino acid, suggesting the target audiences request supplier data on amino acid profile of the soybean meals they supply and to evaluate the soybean meals on amino acid rather than crude protein.
A survey at the end of the seminar indicated that the target audiences agreed that they will consider amino acid profile and content at soybean meal purchasing (average score 8.24 out of 10 point scale); digestible amino acid and energy content in soybean meals are different by origin (8.55 out of 10); and U.S. soybean meal is strong in quality, transparent trade, stable supply and risk management (8.24 out of 10).
USSEC hosted a sustainability seminar, “New Call on the Food Supply and Demand Chain,” in Seoul, South Korea on June 8, targeting the crushing, soy food and feed industries. The objective of the seminar was to highlight what sustainability is, why sustainability matters and will matter to the food security and food safety of Korea, and how sustainability is being pursued within the global food supply chain. More than 40 people attended the seminar from the targeted industries, along with representatives from two newspapers specializing in agriculture and food.
Topics discussed included “Paris Weather Accord and its Ramifications on the Korean Food and Feed Industry,” “Background of the Call for Sustainability and Response from the Supply Chain,” and “Definition & Application of Sustainability from the Perspective of Agriculture.” Sajo Haepyo Corp. and Dr. Chung’s Food Co., Ltd. shared their understanding and application of sustainability in their businesses.
After the seminar, the two attending newspapers, Agriculture, Fisheries & Livestock News and the Food & Beverage News, published articles about the seminar and the resulting discussions on sustainability. The Agriculture, Fisheries & Livestock News will also publish a five series of articles on sustainability discussed at the seminar.
USSEC is raising the voice of science and sustainability in U.S. soybean trade to Taiwan while offering consumers the choice of both genetically modified organism (GMO) and non-GMO U.S. soybeans.
In 2014/2015, the United States ranked #1 with $669 million in total soybean sales to the island nation that depends on imports. Yet, consumer and political challenges to biotechnology confront U.S. soybean exports.
Starting in 2015, Taiwan required companies to label GMO soybeans and food products, such as soybean milk, tofu, and soybean protein products entering the country. By October 2015, street vendors and small stores had to label raw materials. Effective January 2016, businesses were obligated to label GMO food products such as soy sauce. Meanwhile, U.S. exporters must prove traceability and face more customs requirements and paperwork.
USSEC has used soybean checkoff and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Market Access Program (MAP) funds to assist U.S. exporters and assure Taiwan’s soy food companies and their customers that U.S. Soy is safe and sustainable. In 2015, USSEC established a website to share solutions with soy food processors on how to respond to consumer concerns regarding the safety of their soy foods that contain biotechnology ingredients.
MAP funds also assisted USSEC in convening a Biotech Soybean Education Forum in July 2015.
A post-forum survey showed that more than 80 percent of the participants became more confident in the safety of GMOs. These results form a foundation for USSEC’s MAP-funded 2016 sustainability education that faces an internet-based anti-GMO campaign. USSEC is working with Taiwanese companies that will add a new “Sustainable U.S. Soy” logo to their products.
Even with heightened regulatory requirements, Taiwan’s consumption of U.S. Soy remains high and stable, including through foods, such as tofu and soymilk. The USDA reports that in 2015, the U.S. exported 280 thousand metric tons (TMT) of soybeans for food utilization, including 26 TMT of non-GMO soybeans valued at $20 million USD.
In 2012, the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA) helped level the playing field for U.S. food-grade soybean sales when it established a tariff rate quota (TRQ).
USSEC has served as quarterback to U.S. soybean growers and exporters that now score a 98 percent utilization of this preferential TRQ with South Korea.
“USDA was instrumental in getting the quota established,” says United Soybean Board (USB) director Mark Caspers, who spoke about soy sustainability and quality at the April 2016 U.S. Food-Bean Buyers Conference and Tabletop Trade Show. “Today, I see it as a team effort to meet the quota. The quota doesn’t do us any good if we aren’t getting the tonnage in there.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Market Development (FMD) program has partnered with soybean checkoff investments in Korea. The FTA allows food companies to buy direct from U.S. exporters. USSEC’s role is to educate U.S. food-bean exporters on how to sell increasing amounts to the Korean market.
They have succeeded. The U.S. food-bean industry sold 250,400 metric tons (MT) valued at $158 million in 2015 alone. Since the FTA went into force between Korea and U.S. in 2012, U.S. market share in imported food-soybean market has increased from 58 percent in 2012 to 85 percent in 2015. The ratio of TRQ executed by the Korean soy food processors against allocations increased to 98 percent in 2015 from 95 percent in 2014, 60 percent in 2013 and 35 percent in 2012.
FMD 2015 funding also aided USSEC in bringing a Korean team of buyers to the U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange in Minneapolis. To continue ramping up trade relationships, FMD funds contributed to USSEC hosting the April 2016 U.S. Food-Bean Buyers Conference and Tabletop Trade Show in Seoul that drew 38 purchasing staff and three top executives from Korea’s soy food processing industry.
Importantly, U.S. food-bean exporters, including the DeLong Company of Wisconsin, traveled to this USDA-supported conference. Austin DeLong, DeLong’s non-GMO marketing manager, says USSEC events have facilitated countless connections, noting that these buyer relationships allow his company to pay premiums to the southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois and northwestern Ohio soybean growers who sell to DeLong. The company has also hosted USSEC soybean trade teams that allowed them to show the benefits of U.S. Soy as well as the processing and handling of it.
Additionally, DeLong found value in the U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP), which further differentiates U.S. Soy from that of other origins. In pursuit of sustainable soy, the largest trade organization of food-bean end-users, Korea Federation of Tofu Cooperatives (KFTC), decided to request U.S. SSAP certificates as one of the required documents for identity preserved food-bean imports from the U.S.
USSEC hosted a two-day soybean meal purchasing workshop in Busan, South Korea May 13 and 14, targeting feed industry purchasing staff. The objective of the workshop was to differentiate U.S. soybean meal from South American soybean meals based on amino acid profile.
Two local speakers discussed applying amino acid to purchasing decisions for soybean meal, along with the latest developments in the international financial and commodity markets. Workshops participants included 24 purchasing staff from 15 feed mills and the Korea Feed Association (KFA).
USSEC shared an amino acid analysis database on soybean meals imported into Korea with the target audiences. The database showed that U.S. soybean meal contained more amino acids in terms of total and essential amino acids. A survey given at the end of the workshop indicated how the audience considers the importance of amino acid at purchasing (6.6 on a 10 point scale); U.S. soybean meal has the advantage in quality, transparent trade, stable supply and risk management (8.0 on 10 point scale); and the U.S. is the most reliable source for soybean meal (8.4 on 10 point scale).