China Soybean

China eyes 40% soybean production boost by 2025

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The world’s largest oilseed consumer, China, hopes to boost domestic soybean output by 40% over the next four years, in an attempt to boost self-sufficiency in the commodity, Reuters reported.

The nation has set a goal to increase soybean production to 23 million tonnes by 2025, from 16.4 million tonnes in 2021, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) which issued the 14th five-year plan on crop farming on Thursday (Jan. 13).

“In recent years, with the improvement of people’s living standards and the rapid development of animal farming industries, demand for soybean oil and soybean meal has increased significantly, and the gap between soybean production and demand is large and has existed for a long time,” the five-year plan document said.

China relies on world markets for 85% of its soybean demand and the import origins are highly concentrated, the ministry added.

“The higher the foreign dependence, the higher the uncertainty,” said a note by Hongta Securities last month. “Especially as the United States is the largest soybean supplier to China, and the relevant trade depends on the changes in political factors and diplomatic relations. Reducing the reliance will allow China to take a proactive position in the trade negotiations.”

Soybeans, a crucial part of the global food chain, -particularly as a source of protein in the production of hogs and poultry- took center stage in the US-China trade war during the Trump-era. Buying more American farm goods, including soybeans, was an important commitment made by the Chinese government in the US-China phase one agreement which was signed in January 2020.

A year earlier, China set out a plan to revitalise domestic soybeans, and has later repeatedly reiterated the need to bolster its grain self-sufficience and cut over-reliance on imports of the commodity from the United States.

China imported more than 100 million tonnes of soybeans in 2020, accounting for about 60% of the global soybean trade volume and about 85% of its domestic consumption that year, according to official figures.

china soybean imports
(Source: General Administration of Customs Graph: Reuters)

The Asian country brought in 96.52 million tonnes of the oilseed in the 12 months of 2021, down 3.8% from 100.33 million tonnes in 2020, according to data from the General Administration of Customs released on Friday (Jan. 14). December imports, however, climbed 18% compared with the same month a year earlier, coming in at 8.87 million tonnes.

Meanwhile, soybean output in China dropped 16% in 2021 from the previous year, as farmers decided to grow more corn because it was more profitable.

The new plan says China will cultivate land specifically for growing soybeans, expand soybean-corn rotation programs and focus on raising the yield of soybeans. It also will expand planting and output of other oilseeds such as rapeseed and peanut.

Rapeseed output could reach 18 million tonnes, up 29%, while peanut production could increase to 19 million tonnes from 17.99 million tonnes.

China also hopes to produce 215 million tonnes of rice, 140 million tonnes of wheat, and 277.5 million tonnes of corn by 2025, up slightly from output levels in 2020.

Grain output grew by 2% to a record high of 682.85 million tonnes in 2021, according to the National Bureau of Statistics in December.

Earlier this month, the official Xinhua news agency reported that China’s biggest soybean grower – the northeastern province of Heilongjiang – plans to increase the area planted to the crop by 10 million mu (666,667 hectares) in 2022.

With reporting by South China Morning Post, Reuters, Xinhua