August 24, 2011

Japanese Importers Seek Conventional Soybeans from Brazil

Author: Michael Cordonnier/Soybean & Corn Advisor, Inc.

Even though the majority of soybeans produced in the world are genetically modified, there still exist end users who want to use conventional soybeans for their food products. Japan is one of the principal markets for conventional soybeans and they currently import approximately one million tons of conventional soybeans for the production of tofu and natto (naturally fermented soybeans). The U.S. currently supplies 75% of the conventional soybeans shipped to Japan, but that could change in the near future.

A group of technicians from Japan are currently in the state of Parana analyzing the possibility of sourcing more of their conventional soybeans from Brazil. The farmers in the state of Parana plant 85% of their soybean acreage to genetically modified soybeans, which means that 15% is still conventional soybeans. There are agricultural cooperatives in the state such as Coamo in Campo Mourao, Batavo in Campos Gerais, and Agarias in Entre Rios that specialize in supplying conventional soybeans for their customers.

The group from Japan was organized by the Sojitz Research Institute in association with the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing. They met last week with officials from the state Secretary of Agriculture, the Department of Rural Economics, and the Phyto-sanitary Department for the state of Parana. Areas of discussion included: recent trends for the production and exports of conventional soybeans, controlling the integrity of conventional soybeans during the post-harvest period, and the possibility of obtaining samples of conventional soybeans grown in the state in order to test their suitability for food products.

The state of Parana is the second leading soybean producing state in Brazil with 4.5 million hectares of soybean in 2010/11 and a total production of 15 million tons. Traditionally 45% of the soybeans produced in the state are exported with the remainder destined for the local crushers.

In past years, genetically modified soybeans were prohibited from being exported from the Port of Paranagua, but the state was forced by the federal government to drop the prohibition. During the period when genetically modified soybeans were prohibited, a system was put in place by the cooperatives and the exporters that insured the segregation of conventional soybeans and genetically modified soybeans. That system is still in place and could be utilized to insure the two types of soybeans are not intermingled during the transportation and export process.