The U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) recently held a two-day Soy Buyers Outlook Conference in Tokyo, Japan. Sponsored in part by the Ohio Soybean Council (OSC) and soybean checkoff, the November event hosted a total of 350 Japanese crushers, feed millers, soy food processors, traders and media. Topics covered included the annual U.S. soy crop quality update, soy health benefit information, market outlooks and soybean meal quality.
OSC board member, Jeff Magyar of Ashtabula County, attended the conference in Tokyo to speak with soybean buyers about Ohio’s crop progress, quality and availability of specialty varieties.
“The theme of the conference and the conversations we had with Japanese buyers was quality,” said Magyar. “Of course price is always a hot topic, but quality is something that the market in Japan is very concerned about and is willing to pay a premium for in many cases.”
The path to market success in Japan is much different than some other well-known markets. While China is growing at a rapid rate in both population and demand, Japan’s population is declining. However, where the overall demand is not expected to increase, their demand for quality, premium products is increasing.
“Japan may not be the high volume commodity market like China, but its demand for specialty products with traceability and high protein content makes it a high value, premium market,” said Magyar. “Markets like this give soybean farmers the opportunity to add a specialty soybean to their operation and seek a premium for it, like many Ohio soybean farmers are already doing.”
Protein levels are extremely important for many domestic and international markets and concern about declining protein levels from the U.S. as a whole is a topic of conversation among all stakeholders. This is especially true of markets like Japan that are specifically focused on those levels.
Ohio is uniquely positioned to fulfill this demand. Thanks to the climate and soils of the state, Ohio soybean farmers consistently produce soybeans with higher protein levels than other states in the western half of the Corn Belt. Additionally, long-standing relationships with buyers have given Ohio an excellent reputation for a consistent supply. Ohio is currently one of the largest producers of food-grade soybeans among U.S. states.
“Events like this outlook conference are valuable to both the soybean buyers and the soybean growers because it’s an opportunity to meet face-to-face,” said Magyar. “I spoke with many grain buyers and soy food manufacturers during the conference who were delighted to see pictures of my farm and watch a video of our soybean harvest. They asked great questions about the weather, prices, quality and availability of food-grade varieties. While it may seem like a small thing, building these relationships and keeping Ohio top of mind among the big players in this market is so important if we want to continue to maintain these opportunities for Ohio soybean farmers.”