Southeast Asia currently has a total population of 636 million, which the U.S. Census Bureau projects to increase to 697 million by 2025. Although there is a wide mix of cultures and religions, the region is relatively stable socially and politically. Southeast Asia’s economy is the sixth largest in the world. Collectively, ASEAN’s (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) largest economies, which include Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, is projected to continue its robust economic growth, boasting an approximate 5 – 6 percent annual average growth rate compared with 3.0 to 3.5 percent for the global economy.
With its growing population – an additional 6 million mouths to feed annually – and burgeoning middle-class consumers with rising disposable household incomes, Southeast Asia’s animal protein consumption is projected to achieve a compounded annual growth rate of 20 percent in the next five years. Largely dependent on imported raw feed ingredients, this region needs to increase its purchase of soybean and soybean meal exponentially to meet demand, especially considering that five countries in this region are ranked within the top 20 global broiler producers, five countries are ranked in the top 10 in global aquaculture production, and Vietnam and the Philippines rank #4 and #6 in global pork production, respectively. Total projected imports for U.S. soybeans into Southeast Asia in 2015 are about 3.4 MMT and 2.5 MMT of soybean meal, accounting for over 59 percent and an 18 percent share of the overall market, respectively. This is a 240 million bushel market for U.S. Soy.
Southeast Asia’s regional economies are relatively open and market-driven, and ASEAN countries have good relations with the United States. U.S. exports of agricultural products to ASEAN countries totaled $10.7 billion in 2013. Leading categories include: soybeans ($1.7 billion), dairy products ($1.3 billion), wheat ($1.1 billion), cotton ($923 million), and soybean meal ($909 million). Southeast Asia represents a market with a combined estimated GDP of more than $6 trillion in 2015. A core competency of the major markets in this region is its ability to adopt new technologies and management systems rapidly. Biotechnology acceptance is not a major issue.