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Soybean Packs a Protein Punch in Global Trade

31 Aug, 2022

Experts and consumers alike have long considered meat as the king of protein-rich foods. For ages, it was believed that no vegetarian substitute could match meat’s nutrient content. There was no hope for vegetarian athletes. Those living in cold regions must have meat in their diet, even if they are vegetarian by faith, or by choice.

Modern nutritional sciences have gone on to prove that a plant-based diet is extremely healthy. Healthier than diets involving meat and dairy. A plant-based diet even brings about the reversal of heart ailments. Soybean is at the center of this lifestyle movement. And, soybean import and export greatly interests agricultural traders around the world.

A common form of content on social media is the vegan blind taste challenge. Participants in the challenge are given plant-based meat substitutes that are manufactured mainly from soy. Dubbed 'the king of beans', soy is the closest to meat in terms of taste and nutrient content. Soy’s versatility and nutrient richness make it a major export product. Nearly half of all production is slated for export. Soybean oil is also widely consumed throughout the world.

What makes soybean so important

Besides being a cooking essential, a meat substitute, and a staple for millions, soybean acts as a principal source of animal feed. Consider the United States where, in 2015, 70% of the soybean was used for animal feed. It is remarkable how soybean is a meat substitute, but at the same, essential to cattle rearing. Oil produced from soybean acts as a biofuel source. In addition, several food industries use soybean as a raw material. 

Soybean import-export data

The crop has its history rooted in the east. Korea, Japan, and China have recorded their use for centuries past. But in the modern trade scenario, countries in the Americas account for most of the production. Find a detailed soybean import-export trade database at The Trade Vision. Access real-time data from across countries and hundreds of commodities on The Trade Vision mobile app.   

Soybean’s total export value was recorded at $64 billion in 2020. Following are the top soybean exporting and importing countries.

Top Soybean exporting countries

1. Brazil ($28.6 billion)

2. United States ($25.6 billion)

3. Argentina ($2.31 billion)

4. Paraguay ($2.15 billion)

5. Canada ($1.95 billion)

Top Soybean importing countries

1. China ($37.4 billion)

2. Netherlands ($2.44 billion)

3. Mexico ($2.19 billion)

4. Egypt ($1.82 billion)

5. Argentina ($1.76 billion)

What the future holds for soybean

The emergence of soybean as a biofuel has a sinister bearing. As biofuel becomes more common, the rise in demand will cause a spike in prices. For people in poorer countries, this spike in prices could release an avalanche of food insecurity troubles.

To increase soybean production, farmers shifting to the crop will need to clear land. In countries such as Brazil and Argentina, this deforestation will be devastating. The Amazon rainforest covers these countries and acts as the ‘lungs of the world.’ Already, cattle rearing and soybean production in Brazil are contentious issues. Environmentalists are often at loggerheads with agribusiness owners and farmers. The government must seek international cooperation and find the middle ground between conservation and profits. Brazil’s presidential elections in 2022 will play a key role in the future of soybean production.