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. The crushing sector in Taiwan, Republic of China increased its imports of commodity soybeans. In Taiwan, 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.
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 sector in Japan has also increased its commodity soybean imports. Japanese 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.
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.