Improving the soybean industry

Published: 8 September 2020

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Dr Dirk Strydom,
manager: Grain Eco-nomy and Marketing, Grain SA

It is no secret that the soybean industry has grown substantially – especially in the last six years. However, in the 2018/2019 marketing season there was a substantial amount of carry-over stock of soybeans, whilst soybean oilcake was still imported in large quantities – creating some concerns within the industry.

On request, the Protein Research Foundation (PRF) arranged a meeting with all the different role-players within the industry to discuss the value chain and the future of the soybean industry. The PRF soybean working group focusses on improving the soybean industry.

The meeting was not only to explore all the different perceptions and myths within the industry, but also to see how processing can be expanded and improved. From this meeting, importers of oilcake committed to use locally produced oilcake. Grain SA, together with industry role-players and the government, approached the Chinese government to establish an export market. This was a very fruitful meeting and in the next year the carry-over stock was processed and the industry was in a balanced scenario in terms of supply and demand.

However, together with the leadership of the PRF, it was decided to continue the good work and to plan the future of the soybean industry. This working group focusses on specific issues which will ensure the sustainability and growth of the industry. Currently the following topics are discussed and researched at the working group:

  • Soybean value chain
    •  Farm level economics
    •  Soybean content and quality
    •  JSE/Safex issues and possible solutions
    •  Quality of local soybeans and soybean oilcake
  • Crop and area estimates
  • Production and research
    •  Agronomy – row widths and planting density
    •  Weed control – chemicals and resistance
    •  Soybean diseases – Sclerotinia, SDS
    •  Rhizobia
    •  Fertiliser
    •  Seed technology – reducing production cost, improving average yield and expanding soybean hectares
    •  Seedling diseases and treatment
  • Infrastructure
  • Storage at a higher moisture content
  • Imports and exports
  • Increase of processing capacity
  • Research capacity
  • Targets for 2025

Currently there are a few important studies to take notice of:

  1. The Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) is doing a full value chain analysis. Some of the focusses include to identify supply chain constraints and to determine how producers can be incentivised for higher quality soybeans; the impact of the agricultural master plan with specific reference to the poultry master plan as well as understanding market dynamics and the possibilities of expansion.
  2. An investigation of the economic impact when soybeans are purchased at higher moisture levels, similar to international counterparts.
  3. Evaluating local soybean quality on a regional level, and improving the access of information.
  4. Research from the University of the Free State regarding an alternative soybean differential model, based on regional supply and demand with zero zones.
  5. Various different studies on average row widths and plant density.

With this platform that has been created, it is clear that when industry role-players clear up communication channels and work together, much can be achieved to take the soybean industry forward.

Grain SA will report on these research studies on a continuous basis and will also take part in the discussions in order to improve the profitability and sustainability within the local industry.

Photo: Ralf Küsel