Soybean self-sufficiency could be raised, says expert

Updated: 2011-03-16 13:56

By Zhou Siyu (China Daily)

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BEIJING - With enormous potential and a growing market, China will be able to raise its self-sufficiency rate in soybeans to 30 percent within three years, said Liu Denggao, vice-president of the China Soybean Industry Association.

China imported 54.8 million tons of soybeans in 2010, the largest in its history, compared with 15.2 million tons of domestic production, General Administration of Customs data showed. The country's self-sufficiency rate currently stands at 22 percent.

"To raise the self-sufficiency rate to 30 percent in soybeans is achievable with greater policy supports from the government and increasing production capabilities," Liu said.

"Having a self-sufficiency rate lower than 30 percent, in the soybean trade, we are literally putting ourselves at the mercy of others," he added. There is additional 2 million hectares of farmland that could be used for close proximity planting of soybeans, which will help boost the country's production levels.

"To develop our full potential, the government should come up with a plan for industry development, focusing on better organizing soybean farmers, improving infrastructure in rural areas and upgrading agricultural machinery and storage facilities," he said.

Wang Yunkun, deputy director at the Agriculture and Village Committee of the National People's Congress, said China's high volume of soybean imports would remain stable for next three to five years.

"During this period, we should make efforts to boost production and develop other oil plants so that we can improve our soybean self-sufficiency and reduce the impact from the international markets," Wang told China Daily at the National People's Congress

China emerged as the largest soybean importer from the US in 2010, with the country's import volume standing at 22.8 million tons, accounting for more than half of US soybean exports. In January, China signed a $6.68-billion soybean deal for about 11.7 million tons, with an average price 12 percent higher on every ton than the March-delivery soybean futures price at the Chicago Board of Trade on Jan 21.

The US Department of Agriculture released an outlook report for US agricultural trade on Feb 24, saying China is forecast to be the top market for US exports at $20 billion in the fiscal year 2011, and "record exports to China for the first quarter of the fiscal year were dominated by soybeans, which made up 77 percents of exports".

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Liu also cautioned about the high volume of soybean imports, saying authorities should oversee the trade to avoid any negative impact on the domestic industry. "The deal has put tremendous pressure on the security of the soybean industry and has also threatened farmers' prospects of securing their jobs and increasing their income."

He also said China now has 6 million tons in stockpiles, and 40 percent of those in the major growing regions have yet to sell out, because of the excessive imports.

A large influx of genetically modified (GM) soybeans, more suitable for producing soy oil, soon became a favorite with the country's oil-processing industry, which had further dampened farmer's enthusiasm in planting soybeans.

However, more and more companies in the food and catering industries started establishing production bases for non-GM beans.

The Hong Kong-based Vitasoy International Holdings Ltd has set up a production base of 1,333 hectares in Heilongjiang province, a major soybean producing region in September.

China's non-GM soybeans have attracted increasing attention from all over the world, Liu said.. Companies from more than 50 countries are buying non-GM soybean protein, an ingredient used in food processing, from China.

"China is home to 97 percent of global soybean varieties. This is to our advantage. We will produce more non-GM soybeans and sell them at a good price," Liu said.

In January, China's export volume of soybeans dropped by 11.8 percent year-on-year to 14,520 tons, compared with a 40.3 percent year-on-year decline for the same period last year, official figures showed.


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