Soybean is king in American exports to China

Updated: 2013-08-02 11:05

By Yu Wei in San Francisco (China Daily)

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Soybean is king in American exports to China

A tractor pulls an implement down a country road past a soybean field, right, near Tiskilwa, Illinois, on July 19. Daniel Acker / Bloomberg

China imported $13 billion worth of soybeans from the US in 2012, making it the largest single commodity the US exported to China in terms of value, according to US Soybean Export Council China Director Zhang Xiaoping.

"China is the US' number one soybean buyer," Zhang said. "The soybean has played an important role in China-US agricultural trade relations, accounting for more than 50 percent of total US agricultural exports to China."

Without the Chinese market, both soybean production in the US and its related industries would not have grown to its current scale of more than 31 million hectares of land producing 90 million metric tons of soybeans, he said.

"Since 2003, China has been a dominant US soybean importer, with a 36 percent share of total US soybean exports that year. In 2012, China's share was up to 60 percent," he said.

Current USDA forecasts predict that China will import 69 million tons of soybeans in 2013-14, up 17 percent from the 2012-13 level of 59 million tons.

The US is the largest producer of soybeans in the world and China buys about 25 percent of its crop. Iowa led the nation in soybean production in 2012.

Iowa produced 414 million bushels of soybeans last year, according to Dustin Vande Hoef, communications director for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. "Around 100 million bushels of Iowa soybeans were exported to China," he said.

The Iowa-China connection has come a long way since President Xi Jinping - then a party official of Hebei province - traveled there on an exchange program in 1985.

Vande Hoef expects Iowa's long history of mutually beneficial trade with China to continue with a comparable volume of soybean exports to China again this year. Iowa has been extremely active in promoting our trading relationship with China, including soybeans, he said.

"Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has participated in several trade missions to China and those trips have included efforts to promote Iowa soybeans with Chinese customers," he said. "Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and the Iowa Soybean Association also take regular trips to China to meet with customers."

A group of 27 Minnesota soybean farmers went to China in March as part of the Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council's International Marketing "See For Yourself" program.

"The trip gave Minnesota farmers an in-person view of China, where they met with leaders of some of the businesses that use or process US soybeans, and developed relationships as well as a greater understanding of the connection between soybean producers and their buyers in China," said Dan Lemke, communication director at Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council.

Minnesota is the third largest soybean producing state in the nation, raising more than 300 million bushels in 2012. The soybean is Minnesota's top export commodity and about 25 percent of its crop also goes to China, according to the council.

"China is one of our biggest customers, so cultivating strong relationships is important," Lemke said. "Minnesota farmers want processors and buyers in China to know they are committed to growing high quality soybeans to help feed people and livestock."

Su Ye, head of market research at Minnesota's Department of Agriculture, said trips like this are wonderful opportunities for Minnesota farmers to better understand the Chinese market. "It really helps our soybean growers to see how China and the US both benefit from soybean import and export," Su said.

"I think China will remain Minnesota's top soybean export market for the coming years," she said.


(China Daily USA 08/02/2013 page10)