A Japanese soyfood supply chain team, consisting of two importers, tofu and deep-fried tofu processors, toured the U.S. in August to learn about the intrinsic and extrinsic values of U.S. Soy and its supply system. Indiana and Ohio qualified state soybean boards (QSSBs) funded the team.
The team members’ deep-fried tofu products are regularly supplied to Japan’s top convenience store chain that currently has more than 19,850 outlets in the country and is well known for its strict safety measures. Thus, what this supply chain team perceives and experiences in the U.S. is very important for them to be assured of and to communicate the safety and sustainability of the U.S. Soy that supplies Japan’s daily dining industry.
USSEC North Asia Regional Human Utilization (HU) Coordinator and Japan HU Director Masako Masi Tateishi escorted the team during their time in the U.S. The team visited Gavillon in Omaha; Schwartz Farms and KAPI in Ohio; they also visited the state soy council and met a university breeder prior to and after the U.S. Soy Global Trade Exchange and learned about the most updated identity preserved (IP) value enhanced system, soy quality, and new varieties around the states from Nebraska and Ohio.
Specifically, the team was educated on various sustainable farming practices, especially precision technology, which allows U.S. farmers to minimize fertilizer, chemicals, and seeds by looking at actual mapping data and cover crop product guides at Schwartz Farm in Ohio. Because Schwartz Farm received the 2013 Cooperator of the Year award from the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Districts - Trumbull County, the stories that the team heard were even more convincing. Also, the delegation was invited to a BBQ party that Schwartz Farms arranges annually, inviting 120 contracted farmers to express appreciation for growing soybeans for them.
At the end of the team travel, an importer member said, “My customers are looking forward to receiving U.S. Soy Sustainaiblity Assurance Protocol certificate and using the Sustainable U.S. Soy (SUSS) logo on their deep-fried tofu products when ready. We are very delighted to share these great stories of U.S. Soy farmers with Japanese consumers!”
In 2016, Japan imported 732,000 metric tons (MT) of high-quality IP value enhanced beans, of which import volume from the U.S. was up 25 percent compared to 2012, and container-shipped U.S. variety increased 46 percent during the same period due to an increase of total food bean demand and Japanese shifting of their source from Canada and China to the U.S. USSEC will continue its marketing efforts by differentiating and creating preference for U.S. Soy in Japan.