THE BLOG

African Farmers Need To Bump Up Soybean Production

The growth in animal feed demand has been spurred on by an increase in demand for high-protein food – especially within the growing middle class.

07/07/2017 03:57 SAST
Supri Supri/ Reuters
A worker runs soybeans through a machine in a warehouse belonging to a tofu factory in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Maize and soybean are the key ingredients of animal feed production around the world. In the recent past, the global production of these commodities increased drastically, driven to a large degree by growing demand from animal feed and biofuel industries. The growth in animal feed demand has been spurred on by an increase in demand for high protein food – especially within the growing middle class. Notable growth in the past few years has been in Africa and Asia.

The International Grains Council forecasts 2017-18 global maize usage in the animal feed industry at 613 million tonnes, up by 2 percent from the previous season and the highest level in more than a decade. At the same time, soybean use in the global feed industry is estimated at 20 million tonnes. This is a 5 percent increase from the 2016-17 season and also the highest in more than a decade. Asia, particularly China, is one of the fastest growing markets for soybean.

A closer observation of the African market presents a similar trend to the global one. Africa's 2017-18 maize usage in animal feed industries is estimated at an all-time high of 32 million tonnes, up by 6 percent from the previous season. However, this has not been widespread across the region. Consistent feed usage growth has been in North Africa, particularly Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. The region's 2017-18 maize usage in animal feed is estimated at 18 million tonnes, up by 6 percent from the previous season. Meanwhile, sub-Saharan Africa's 2017-18 maize usage in animal feed is estimated at 14 million tonnes, which is 2 percent higher than the previous season.

South Africa is the largest user of maize for animal feed in its region, constituting a share of 41 percent in the 2017-18 season. Trailing behind South Africa is Nigeria and Tanzania with a share of 11 percent and 7 percent respectively. Although maize is a well-established ingredient in animal feed production on the Africa continent, soybean usage is still relatively marginal. The International Grain Council estimates that Africa's soybean usage for the 2017-18 season sits at 470 000 tonnes, up by 34 percent from the previous season. Furthermore, this is skewed towards the sub-Saharan Africa region, with a share of 98 percent. Meanwhile, North Africa only processes about 2 percent of the estimated 470,000 tonnes.

This soybean and maize demand from animal feed industries is likely to prevail over the foreseeable future.

That said, this is not to suggest that North Africa does not use soybean products for animal feed. Data from the International Trade Centre (ITC) shows that Egypt imports more than 1 million tonnes of soybean oilcake a year. In 2016 alone, the country imported 1.4 million tonnes of soybean oilcake. Algeria is also the largest importer of soybean oilcake. According to ITC data, the country imported 1.5 million tonnes of oilcake in 2015. Tunisia, Libya and Morocco use or import the least amount of soybean oilcake relative to Egypt and Algeria. These particular countries use less than 500,000 tonnes of soybean a year.

The import drive of soybean oilcake does not end in North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa is also a key importer for animal feed. South Africa is the leading importer in the sub-Saharan region, with annual imports of just over half a million tonnes (despite the increase in domestic soybean production in the recent past). Overall, Africa imports more than 4 million tonnes of soybean oilcake a year.

This soybean and maize demand from animal feed industries is likely to prevail in the foreseeable future. Therefore, African farmers should consider increasing domestic soybean production in coming seasons as a substitute for the ever-growing imports of soybean products.