Moving into new markets with out-of-the-box strategies

by Brynna Sentel
3 minute read
farmer in soybean field with ipad

Illinois soybeans have a few distinct pathways to reach their end users. Each year, over 60% of Illinois soybeans leave the U.S. for customers around the world. The other roughly 40% get processed (called crushing) domestically and end up as part of animal feed rations fed to chickens, hogs, beef and dairy cattle. This protein meal is 80% of the volume of the soybean.

Finding customers and uses for this soybean meal both at home and abroad is part of the mission of the Illinois Soybean Association and the soybean checkoff.

While China remains a mature market for Illinois soybean exports, ISA and our partner organizations are looking for ways to provide options for our exports. When looking at more advanced markets with immediate opportunities for exports, ISA relies on the work done by the United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC). USSEC has staff on the ground on over one-hundred countries around the world.

These staff work with purchasers of soybeans to connect them with U.S. exporters and develop business plans and relationships that involve sourcing U.S. soybeans. This system works well for these developed and developing markets with existing industry.

In countries that have growing populations and represent potential future markets for U.S. soybean exports, ISA supports work done by the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH). WISHH works with U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), USDA Foreign Market Development (FMD), and checkoff funds to help industries and end users become aware of how to use U.S. soybeans in their operations and scale-up to create more demand.

One example of work funded by ISA and the Illinois soybean checkoff through WISHH is in Cambodia. Cambodia has one of the fastest growing economies in the world at close to 8% annually. Its nearly 17 million people are growing in income in parallel to the economy.

As the population’s income grows, one of the first areas they invest in is higher quality food and nutrition. Historically, Cambodian cuisine has featured “snakehead” a species of fish known to be found in the Mekong River which cuts through Cambodia. Snakehead is considered a delicacy for many in the region and catching snakehead in the wild has always been challenging.

Recently, attempts have been made to raise snakehead populations in captivity using a variety of live bait as feed. This system has proved to be very expensive and minimally effective for the farmers raising the fish.

WISHH, through works supported by the U.S. government, has instituted a program to help these farmers apply the proven technology of commercial soy fed aquaculture called the In Pond Raceway System (IPRS) that has been developed by USSEC for use in other Asian countries.

Through the IPRS technology and animal feed technology development, Cambodian farmers can raise snakehead domestically and provide a growing Cambodia with access to an ancestral food at lower prices using soybean feed rations.

These out-of-the-box soybean business opportunities to invest in future markets helps ISA make investments of checkoff funds that can pay dividends in future global soybean demand.

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