German Soybeans: Via Holland or Not?


Oct 20, 2022 | Agricultural Markets News

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In 2022, the soy area in Germany has grown by almost 50% compared to the previous year to around 51,400 ha. The main areas of cultivation were Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. Soybeans are already the most important grain legume in these provinces – ahead of peas, broad beans, and lupins. Market participants anticipate further strong growth and expect cultivation to reach at least 100,000 hectares in the medium term. So far, only about 3% of the Soybeans required in Germany each year are produced in the country. Germany was forecast to produce 136,000 tons of Soybeans this year, around 27 percent more than in 2021.

The European Union (EU) heavily relies on Soybean imports to meet internal demand for food and feed, with the United States and Brazil being the two leading suppliers. Germany relies on Soybean imports mostly to cover its demand for animal feed. Between 2004 and 2019, Germany imported, on average, 5.18 million Soybean-equivalent tons per year, making it the second largest importer of soy in Europe.

These numbers include Soybeans and soymeal, and oil, which represent a substantial amount of total soy imports. In 2018, for example, Germany imported 3.64 million tons of Soybeans, 2.43 million tons of meal, and 62 thousand tons of oil, totaling 6.14 million tons of soy imports. Around 33% of the soy is re-exported, primarily to other EU countries, and the rest is used for domestic consumption.

German Soybeans: Via Holland or Not?

The Soybean Trade Route to Germany

Although the total quantities of soy imports have remained fairly stable during the last decade, geographic sourcing patterns varied significantly. Historically, most soy imported to Germany comes from Brazil, the United States, or the Netherlands from similar sources. Until 2006, Brazil accounted for 40% of the market share of German soy imports, but since 2007 the United States has taken over as the country with the biggest market share in terms of trade value. Annual figures fluctuate, for example, due to external macroeconomic factors, such as the Chinese-USA trade war.

In recent years, the trade value of Soybean imports from Brazil to Germany fell significantly, accounting for only 10% of the total trade value in 2018 and 3% in 2019. However, Germany also imports processed Brazilian Soybean meal for animal feed. Combining Soybeans and meal, Brazil still accounted for 28% of the total trade value of soy imports to Germany in 2019. As a result, Brazil remains a key sourcing region for German soy imports.

A significant share of Europe’s soy imports from Brazil arrives in the Netherlands, after which they are re-exported to other EU countries. From 2004 to 2019, Brazil’s Soybean exports to the Netherlands accounted for 5% of its total soy trade value. This is a relatively small market share for the Brazilian economy, but for the Netherlands, this represents 51% of its soy trade value.

Around one-quarter of all Soybeans imported by the Netherlands are directly re-exported to other countries. The bulk is processed by Dutch factories into Soybean meal, mainly as animal feed, or into soy oil, primarily destined for human consumption. Soy products are not only destined for the domestic market but are also exported in the form of Dutch-manufactured products.

Since a substantial amount of the soy imported to Germany arrives through the Netherlands, as of 2018, on average, 6% of total soy imports to Germany come from Brazil via Holland, as opposed to 10% of direct imports from Brazil. These figures were high at 17% and 42%, respectively, during mid-2000.

The United States now dominates Germany’s Soybeans market by far, with 1.7 million tons in 2021-2022, according to the AgFlow data. The following performers were Brazil and Hungary.

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