CHINA-China, the world’s top buyer of soybeans, has expanded its planting area to 10.26 million hectares, an increase of 1.82 million hectares year-on-year as the country continues its self-sufficiency push.
For years, China has been heavily reliant on imports to meet its local demand. The average soybean import is at 60%, the figure that the government is working to slash in a quest to lower the import bill.
However, last year’s production rose to 20.28 million metric tons, the largest amount since 1958, and surpassed the 2021 volume by 3.89 million according to Zen Yande, chief agronomist of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.
“It was the first time the soybean output on the mainland has surpassed 20 million tons,” he said, adding that this helped raise the soybean self-sufficiency rate by 3 percentage points in a single year.
However, oilseed demand, primarily in the animal feed sector, continues to outstrip domestic production, requiring significant volumes of imports despite the government’s effort to boost domestic production.
China imported more than 100 million tonnes of soybeans in 2020, accounting for about 85 percent of its domestic consumption that year and about 60 percent of the global soybean trade volume. In 2021, it imported about 96.52 million tonnes of the oilseed down 3.8% from 2021.
Moreover, the 2022 production has led to a 1.6% self-sufficiency in cooking oil production, the sector that was heavily affected by the Ukrainian crisis.
Mr. Yande added that the improved supply coupled with the national campaign to encourage frugality in the catering sector led to the success in the cooking oil but more production is needed to meet demand for animal feeds.
Agricultural practices such as crop rotation and intercropping systems have also started to be practiced by farmers in Northeast and Northwest China to increase production.
Moreover, Pan Wenbo, director of the ministry’s crop farming management department, said that the government of China is the basis of the high output following a project rolled out last year by the central government to expand the cultivation of soybean and other oil crops.
Among the oil seeds forecasted to increase the rape seed, peanut, flax, and sunflower. Generally, rapeseed output edged up 1.1 percent to 36.53 million tons last year.
In 2023, the ministry aims to expand growing areas for soybean and oil crops by at least 660,000 hectares, and raise the self-sufficiency rate for cooking oil production further by 1 percent.
China aims to get back to being the world’s largest producer of soybeans, a status that the country lost during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45)