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Soybeans Ahoy! – China’s Numbers are Mind Boggling

Touch the Soil News #344

(story cover photo courtesy of CSIRO)

The USDA, among other things, keeps track of who is buying the most food in the world. Recently the USDA revealed some astonishing perspective about soybeans for the current farm season. The top buyer of course is China, and the single most purchased product is soybeans and soy oil. Here are the numbers:

  1. China is expected to import 85 million metric tonnes of soybeans this crop year.
  2. China is expected to import 13.5 million metric tonnes of soy oil this crop year which took about 74 million metric tonnes of soybeans to produce.
  3. China is planning to grow about 11 million metric tonnes of its own soybeans.
  4. All together, China needs 170 million metric tonnes of soybeans to meet its needs.

It would take approximately 4,200 freighters of this size to transport all of the soybeans China is set to consume this upcoming year. That would be a line of freighters 520 miles long.

The world average for soybean production is about one (1) metric tonne per acre – a metric tonne equals 2,205 lbs. This means the land needed to grow the soybeans China needs is about 170 million acres.

170 million acres is equivalent to a farm 50 miles wide and 5,300 miles long. This is equivalent to about 55 percent of all the primary farm ground in America (315 million acres). Land that is not primary farm ground is used for pasture.

About 85 percent of the world’s soybeans are processed into oil (for cooking and other culinary uses). For every 11 lbs. of soy oil there is about 49 lbs. of soy meal left over which is primarily used for livestock and fish feed.

Following is a short video clip on soybean harvesting in the U.S. It is hard to imagine the volume of water, nutrient and topsoil loss that just one season represents. As impressive as it is, the agricultural mining of America’s resources may not go on forever:

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