Table of Contents


Also see the "Grains & Oilseeds" Chapter.


1. Overview

  • This is the fourth largest crop in the world after maize, wheat and rice.
  • Soybeans are an important source of vegetable oil and protein worldwide and there is growing interest in soy products amongst people who want to be healthy. Soy contains significant amounts of all the essential amino acids for humans and serves as valuable source of proteins for vegetarians.
  • Soybean seeds can be eaten as a vegetable. When processed they give soy milk. Soy sauce can be made from mature fermented beans, while roasted seeds can be used as a coffee substitute. Soy flour, another possibility, is used as additives and extenders to cereal flour, meat products and in health foods.
  • Soybeans is also a biofuel crop.
  • Soybean meal is a very rich protein feedstuff for livestock while the vegetative portions of the plant can be used as silage, hay, pasture or may be ploughed in as green manure.
  • The oil is used in the manufacturing of paints, linoleum, oilcloth, printing inks, soaps, insecticides and disinfectants. The lecithin phospholipids that are obtained as a by-product of the oil industry are used as wetting and stabilising agents in food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, leather, paint, plastic, soaps and detergent industries. Soybean meal and soybean protein are used in the manufacture of synthetic fibre, adhesives, textile sizing, waterproofing and fire-fighting foam. The straw can be used to make paper that is stiffer than that made from wheat straw.
  • It is an excellent rotation crop with clearly discernible benefits to crops following.
Sources:; Soyabean Market Value Chain Profiles (a Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries publication - see heading 7) 

For vegetable soybeans, refer to the "Vegetables" chapter.



2. International business environment

  • Soybeans account for the largest share of global oilseed demand (USDA, 2018).
  • The largest producers of soybeans are the US, Brazil, Argentina, China and India. Brazil is the top exporter, followed by the US, Argentina, Paraguay and Canada. The biggest importer by far is China, followed by the EU, Mexico, Egypt and Japan (USDA, 2018).
  • The major producers in Africa are South Africa, Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi, Benin and Zimbabwe.
  • Analysis from Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) prototype farms indicate that local farms are less competitive compared to international counterparts such as Brazil, Argentina and the United States of America. This is driven mainly by lower yields and higher cost for selected input items (BFAP, 2018).

Further reference: