The 12th Southeast Asia Soy Sympoisum (SFS), organized by USSEC Southeast Asia (SEA), was held on March 23 and 24 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The 12th Symposium was attended by 115 participants from SEA, the U.S., and Japan, comprising key soy food and beverage industry personnel, soybean traders, and related stakeholders. The one-day symposium was preceded by a half-day invitation-only workshop on Enhancing Soy Products Innovations to Meet Health and Market Trends, for a select group of soy food and beverage producers from the region.
As with previous series of this annual 1.5 day regional soy food event, the back-to-back strategic arrangement with the SEA Grains Transportation Conference (GTC), enabled the cross participation of attendees, and the benefits of the high level presence of U.S. Soy grower leaders as well as the support of several qualified state soybean boards (QSSBs) and food grade soybean suppliers, who took the opportunity to meet and network with regional customers and producers, and to establish trade deals as well as gain updates on the markets development in the region.
Collectively accounting for 25 percent of the world’s total soyfood consumption, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the group of 10 SEA countries) is also one of the largest importer of U.S. soybeans for food uses, with an estimated 2.5 million metric tons (MMT) out of the 3.6 MMT per year imported into the region designated for soy food and beverage utilization. Of this amount, Indonesia alone accounted for close to 2 MMT of the regional import, almost all targeted for the domestic production and consumption of tempe and tofu.
Additionally, SEA is a developing market for U.S. food grade identity preserved (IP) soybeans, with about 40,000 - 50,000 MT being imported annually in recent years, to meet the growing demand of quality soyfood for the modern trade food and beverage industry. The joint GTC and SFS events were important platform for U.S. suppliers to build business networks and negotiate trade deals, as gleaned from the pooled survey on transaction negotiated reported in the GTC story.
Gerald Smith, Senior Agriculture Attache at the U.S. Consulate General, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, delivered the opening speech and welcomed the delegates to the 2017 Soy Symposium with the theme of “Soy Insight – Sustainability, Nutrition and Innovation.” The symposium aimed to provide the status and latest updates on U.S. food use and specialty soybeans suppliers, sustainable farm practices and technological solutions, in addition to information on soy health benefits, products trends and innovations that spur soybean consumption and market growth in this important regional market for U.S. Soy.
The first session on “U.S. Soy Supply – Ensuring Quality and Sustainability Through the Value Chain” was co-chaired by Mike Appert, vice chairman of the North Dakota Soybean Council and Timothy Loh, USSEC Regional Director - SEA. The three speakers from the U.S. included Will McNair, USSEC Stakeholder Relations Manager, who presented on the outlook of U.S. food soybean supplies and shared how through the dependable production of U.S. food soybean and the U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP), importers of U.S. soybeans and foods are able to create more value for themselves by continuing to differentiate from their competitors. USSEC director Aaron Skyberg of SK Food International and member of the Northern Food Grade Soybean Association (NFGSA), shared the quality traits and Identify Preserved (IP) soybean supply system that catered to the needs and target soybean characteristics sought by soy food and beverage producers through a stringent on farm practices, supply and transportation through the container trade that ensure the identity and quality preservation in delivery to the customers through the containers trade, as reinforced in the presentation by Lucas Blaustein of Consolidated Grains and Barge.
Dr. Anne Bridges of the American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC) International and Professor Paul Teng of the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, during their presentations at the second session of the symposium, emphasized that a sustainable food supply is critical to feed the growing global population and at the same time respond to demands for healthy and nutritious food. Plant breeders work with multiple technologies to provide new advanced crop options for increased yields, excellent environmental management, adaptations to climate change, as well as improved use of insecticides and herbicides and attention to quality attributes. Knowledge and adoption of these technologies, once approved, would help ensure a sufficient, safe, and sustainable agricultural global supply chain.
The session ended with an update on the status of food use soybean markets in SEA, presented by USSEC Human Utilization Manager, Dr. Dady Maskar from Indonesia, on behalf of Boon Yee Yeong, Senior Technical Consultant, Human Utilization, USSEC SEA. The presentation shared data from the region, which points to continuing growth in demand for soy for food uses. U.S. Soy has been recognized to play an important role and contribution to the nutritional well being of large population sectors who consume soyfood and beverage on daily basis. With soybean production of less than a million metric tons in key SEA countries, sustainable food security in the near future in ASEAN will continue to depend on managing the balance in food supply between self-production and imports from outside the region.
The third and fourth sessions of the symposium comprised the remaining 8 of the total 14 papers in this symposium. The sessions’ topics ranged from current soyfood trends, scientific updates and consumer perceptions on soy, and how these factors confluence to influence purchase. Presenters shared experience on how the soy industry responds to their specific market requirements through innovative approaches and product innovation. Examples from two successful market leaders in Singapore and Vietnam, as well as a sharing of market status and development in two countries outside of SEA, Japan and India namely, were among the very interesting and valuable stories of experience sharing.
The focus program with the diverse topics that covered the pertinent interests of the target audience earned a high appreciation and positive evaluation from the survey conducted among the attendees. Of the 71 returned survey questionnairs, more than 90 percent rated the program to be of high value and relevant to their work, and 85 percent were in positive agreement to the overall statements on both the instrinsic characteristics and extrinsic characteristics of U.S. Soy and soy protein. For those producers or traders not currently purchasing U.S. Soy, the knowledge gap on the U.S. Soy Advantage was shown to be narrowed after the participants attended the Symposium. 24 of the regional respondents in the trade indicated they are currently buyers or users of U.S. Soy with another 10 indicating that they plan to purchase U.S. Soy within the next 6 months.
Besides the full day symposium held on March 24, several of the U.S. Soy grower leaders and food soybean suppliers were invited to visit the newly opened state-of-the art soymilk plant of Vinasoy near Ho Chi Minh City. Vinasoy is the largest soymilk producer in Vietnam. While local soybeans have been their main source of supply, they have started exploring importing food soybeans from the U.S. and Canada.
The half day workshop, “Enhancing Soy Products Innovation to Meet Current Nutrition and Market Trends,” was held on the afternoon of March 23 for a select group of soy food and beverage producers, facilitated by experts in the field of nutrition, product development, and marketing. At the end of the workshop, three innovative product concepts were developed and proposed by the participants which showcased the versatility of soy in meeting target health requirements and consumer interest in innovative soy products.