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Consumption of the Quiet Giant – Doing the Math

Touch the Soil News #912 (Feature photo – Soybeans – GNU Free Doc License)

Soybeans represent one of the largest acreage crops in the U.S. – consuming roughly 30 percent of U.S. prime cropland. Because of their nutritional profiles, soybeans are the baseline crop that underpins the global meat and egg industry.

In the U.S., one acre of soybeans produces about 2,550 lbs. of soybeans. This year, China is expected to import, from several different nations including the U.S., approximately 214 billion lbs. This would require land and water of about 84 million acres. Each year, for the past 10 years, Chinese imports of soybeans have increased by about 13.2 billion pounds. A demand that needs an extra 5.1 million acres each year.

The 5.1 million acres of additional farmland needed to just feed the increase in China’s soybean imports for one year is equivalent to a farm 10 miles wide and 800 miles long. Where is that farmland going to come from – slashing and burning rainforests, displacing other crops or minimizing someone else’s dinner plate?

(Data source for Chinese soybean import trends and totals – USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board)

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