Israel: Soybean Imports Heads to $300 Million


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It is not clear when soybeans were first grown in Israel, but their development and popularization after the 1930s or 1940s was pioneered almost single-handedly by a remarkable man named Eliahu Navot. During the 1950s Israel began to import large quantities of soybeans from the US; these were processed into oil and meal at Israeli mills. A new wave of interest in soyfoods started in Israel in the late 1970s, influenced strongly by the soyfoods movement in the US. In 1978 Israel’s first tofu shop, Pillar of Dawn Tofu, was opened by Avraham Sand and Ben Zion Solomon at Moshav Me’or Modi’im. Soymilk, tempeh, and miso were also produced.  

In the ever-evolving landscape of global trade, Israel’s soybean imports have become a topic of significant interest, especially in the first seven months of 2023. But what drives this interest? And what are the key factors influencing Israel’s soybean imports? Let’s delve deep into this topic, shall we?

The Soybean Landscape in Israel

Firstly, it’s essential to understand the context. Why is Israel, a nation with a diverse agricultural sector, so reliant on soybean imports? The answer lies in the country’s arid climate and limited arable land. While Israel has made remarkable strides in agricultural technology, the cultivation of soybeans remains a challenge. This, in turn, has made the nation dependent on imports to meet its domestic needs. In 2021, Israel’s soybeans import totaled $286 million. According to AgFlow data, Israel imported over 32,000 tons of Soybean from Belem port of Brazil in May 2023.

Several factors have played a pivotal role in shaping Israel’s soybean imports from January to July 2023:

    • Global Supply Chain Disruptions: The world is still grappling with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Supply chain disruptions have made it challenging to ensure a steady flow of soybeans. How does this affect Israel? Well, any hiccup in the global supply chain directly impacts the availability and pricing of soybeans in the Israeli market.
    • Trade Relations: Israel’s trade relations with major soybean-producing countries have been dynamic. Any geopolitical tension or trade agreement can sway the balance, affecting the volume and cost of imports.
    • Domestic Demand: The Israeli market has seen a surge in the demand for soy-based products. This rise can be attributed to the growing vegan and vegetarian population and the health benefits associated with soy consumption.
    • Currency Fluctuations: The strength of the Israeli Shekel against major currencies can influence the cost of imports. A stronger Shekel might make imports cheaper, while a weaker one could drive prices up.

Balancing the Tradeoffs

Now, one might wonder, with all these factors at play, how does Israel strike a balance? It’s a delicate dance, isn’t it? On one hand, there’s the need to ensure a steady supply to meet domestic demand. On the other, there’s the challenge of navigating the turbulent waters of global trade and geopolitics.

The answer lies in diversification. By sourcing soybeans from multiple countries, Israel reduces its dependency on any single nation. This approach ensures a steady supply and a buffer against sudden price hikes or supply shortages.

Challenges on the Horizon

While diversification is a strategic move, it’s not without its challenges. Establishing trade relations, ensuring quality control, and navigating the regulatory landscape of multiple countries can be daunting. Moreover, with the global focus on sustainable farming, ensuring that soybeans are sourced ethically and sustainably adds another layer of complexity. 

In Conclusion

The world of soybean imports in Israel is as intricate as it is fascinating. The first seven months of 2023 have shown that while there are challenges, resilience and adaptability exist. As the global landscape continues to evolve, one thing remains certain: Israel’s approach to soybean imports will remain a topic of keen interest to both the general audience and professionals in the agricultural commodity industry. This adaptability and strategic foresight will shape the future of soybean imports in the nation.

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