Soybean meal reduction plan continues although unlikely to reduce import dependence

Economic Daily, a state media outlet, again reiterated China’s need to reduce soybean meal use. 

The article noted that soybean meal is now around 4280 yuan per ton, up 1400 yuan per ton since 2019, and these additional costs have increased the costs of fattening a pig by 70 yuan and also pushed up prices for aquaculture producers. 

Self-sufficiency and dependence on foreign supplies remain a key theme, with the paper noting that “the production of soybean meal for feed is almost entirely dependent on imported soybeans”. 

The reduction in soybean meal use is tied closely to the issue of food security and national security, and many large companies are working to show they support this initiative. 

Muyuan, the largest hog breeder in China, said it has reduced its soybean meal consumption by 5.8 million in the past several years. Wens Foodstuff said it had reduced its soybean meal consumption and it had saved 120 yuan per ton in feed costs.

New Hope, a major hog producer, and feed miller, said that in 2021 it produced 30 million tons of feed and reduced its soybean meal consumption by 900k tons.  

While large companies have reduced their soy meal consumption, the substitutions are unlikely to materially change China’s dependence on imported ingredients. 

An official from the Guangdong Ministry of Agriculture noted that soy meal consumption in the province had gone down, but the use of alternative meals, such as cotton seed, rapeseed, and sunflower seed, had increased. Most of these alternative meals are imported into China and not domestically produced. 

Muyuan has also touted its soy meal reductions and noted that it has increased the amount of amino acids in feed as a substitute. Much of China’s amino acid production comes from locally grown corn or imported sugar, shifting the issue of food security back to grains and other imports. 

China is likely to continue to push for a reduction in soybean meal use as it is mostly reliant on two major suppliers, the US and Brazil. The use of other soybean meal replacements is likely to grow, decreasing soybean demand in the country, but the vast majority of protein feeds for livestock are likely still come from soybeans.