High Reliance on Imported Soybean Affects China's Edible Oil Security
Summary: China's import of soybean is estimated to hit a historic high in 2012, and the high reliance on imported soybean may bring risks to China's edible oil security.
Tag: agriculture, investment, soybean, oil, demand, import, planting area, consumption, output, production According to statistics from China Customs, in the first half of 2012, China imported 29.05 million tonnes of soybean, up 29.05% over H1 2011. Since the planting area of soybean in China has decreased this year, it's estimated that China's import of soybean will set a new record in 2012, and the high growth of import volume in H1 2012 is a signal, according to CCMâ€™s July issue of AgriChina Investor.
Soybean is a major source of edible oil in China. With the increasing demand for edible oil from urban residents and the declining planting area of soybean, China's import of soybean has been increasing year by year over the past decade.
Since 2003, China has surpassed the European Union and become the largest soybean importer in the world. In 2010, China's soybean import volume hit a historic high of 54.80 million tonnes. In 2011, it decreased slightly by 3.9% to 52.64 million tonnes. The import volume of soybean in China climbed by 90% from 2004 to 2010.
According to the data from China's National Grain and Oils Information Center, the annual consumption volume of edible oil in China reached 20.5kg per person in 2011.
China mainly imports soybean from the U.S., Brazil and Argentina, where the GMO soybeans are planted the most extensively. The U.S., a country with the largest planting areas of soybean in the world, has supplied about a quarter of its soybean output to China.
Imported soybean now accounts for about 80% of China's total soybean consumption. Compared with more than 50 million tonnes of imported soybean every year, China's domestic output of soybean has been about 12 million tonnes per year in recent years.
Driven by the increasing urbanization rate and hence the increasing demand from urban residents in China, China's soybean import volume is expected to maintain an uptrend in the next 10 to 15 years. According to a forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, China's import
volume of soybean is expected to go up by 62% to 90 million tonnes per year over the next 10 years.
China's soybean growing industry has been greatly affected by the increasing import volume of soybean. As imported soybean has advantages in cost (because of high farming efficiency in major soybean planting countries) and high oil yield (because of the adoption of GMO seed; but GMO soybean is prohibited to be planted in China), domestic soybean growing industry is beaten by imported product, and many Chinese farmers are unwilling to grow soybean.
The decreasing output of domestic soybean and the increasing soybean import also impact China's oil crushing industry. It was reported that more than 80% of the soybean oil crushers in Heilongjiang Province, China's largest soybean production base, have closed down due to the decline in both planting area and output of soybean in the region in 2011, and many of the soybean oil producers have been relocated to coastal areas and begun to use imported soybean as their raw materials.
The heavy reliance on imported soybean brings great risks to the food security of China and the price stability of edible oil. Now many foreign companies have extended and integrated the industrial chain of soybean in China, thus dominating the pricing rights of China's edible oil market; more than 75% market share of soybean oil market in China is controlled by overseas brands. Most price rise of edible oil in the end market in recent years are initiated by overseas companies. Edible oil's price, which is included in China's CPI contributing factor, is highly related to society sustainability.
As soybean is not included in grain in Chinese government's statistical system, the high reliance on soybean import may be ignored if focus is only put on China's grain sufficiency rate. Many experts suggest that grain security-related governmental departments in China should concern more about the soybean import.
Source: AgriChina Investor 1207 http://www.cnchemicals.com/Newsletter/NewsletterDetail_192.html
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