U.S. soybean growers this week joined a delegation of producers from Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay in China to advocate for continued soybean export expansion and speedy biotech approvals.
The group, collectively called the International Soy Growers Alliance, has spent the week meeting with soybean exporters and organizations in China to discuss issues surrounding future export expansion and food security.
Currently, the U.S. is exporting about 57% of the domestic soybean crop overseas, with China consuming about 30%, North Dakota soy farmer Jared Hagert and American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser said during a Thursday morning press call.
Those tallies are expected to increase, the two said, noting expanded demand for oils and meat in Chinese diets.
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"The increased need for fats and oils in [Chinese] diets is really what's driving the import market," Hagert said, highlighting an "ambitious" growth schedule that calls for a 4.7% increase in the amount of soybeans imported, to 75 million metric tons, by 2017.
"They continue to have more and more people move to the city," Gaesser added. "They are wanting and desiring more animal protein. In order to meet that extra demand, they need to grow more and more poultry, and pork in particular, here in China."
While Chinese demand appears to be strong, one hang-up is a sluggish biotech approval process that has shut out new technologies like Dow's Enlist system.
"The approval process, it has three windows of opportunity for comment from the Government. From what we have seen from the presentations, there has been some give and take there on the Enlist approval. But we would like to see it obviously move ahead so we can add another tool to our toolbox," Hagert said.
Gaesser noted that a considerable amount of time has been spent discussing the Chinese view on biotech approvals, boiling down to an overall positive response.
"They are supportive of GM, they want to make sure that they have a thorough process," Gaesser said. "They want to make sure that their approval process is timely but also based on science and thorough, is their message to us."
As China continues to focus on domestic supplies of rice, wheat and corn, U.S. soybean representatives said China's demand for the amount of soy needed to guarantee food security is an opportunity.
Related: Weekly Soybean Review
"We met with the industry people who shared their thought that we are continuing to give them the supply they need, but they are also concerned about the quantity that they will be needing in the future," Gaesser said.
"We assured them that with the technology and with the farmers' ability and desire to provide that good, safe, wholesome food supply – if we have the technology available to us, we can continue to meet all the needs of the soybean industry and the world."