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.
  • 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

See the “Monthly Bulletin” on the South African Grain Information Service (SAGIS) website for updated export/import information.

  • Soybeans account for the largest share of global oilseed demand [Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP), 2016].
  • Production and trade by Brazil, the US and China accounts for nearly two-thirds of global soybean trade (USDA, 2017).
  • The world’s top PRODUCERS of soy are the United States, Brazil, Argentina, China and India. Other key producers include Paraguay, Canada, Ukraine and Bolivia.
  • The major EXPORTERS of soybeans are Brazil, the USA, Argentina, Canada, Paraguay, Uruguay, the Netherlands, Ukraine and China.
  • China, Spain, Germany and Japan lead the list of top IMPORTERS. There is a huge gap between China, the top importer with 65% share of global imports, and the rest (Agbiz, 2018).
  • South Africa is the foremost soybean producer in AFRICA, together with Nigeria, Zambia, Malawi, Benin and Zimbabwe accounting for 90% of the continent’s soybeans.

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