Japan: Brazil Plays Big in the Soybean Meal Market


Jan 31, 2023 | Agricultural Markets News

Reading time: 2 minutes

In Japanese, the characters for Soybean literally mean “great bean,” indicating its place as the nation’s most important legume. Hundreds of Soybean varieties in Japan come in various sizes and colors. Soybeans are also classified by size: large, medium, and small. The large size is used for dishes such as simmered Soybeans, while the medium is used for processed foods such as tofu, miso, and soy sauce. The small ones are used for natto (fermented Soybeans).

In Japan, yellow Soybeans are the most common, but they come in various varieties, including white, black, red, and green. Most processed soy products such as miso, tofu, and natto are made from medium or small yellow Soybeans. Green Soybeans are often used to manufacture soy flour (kinako) or to make simmered Soybeans, and in recent years are found in green Soybean tofu and green Soybean natto.

In 2020, Japan’s Soybeans production totaled 218,900 tons. Soybean cultivation is widely practiced throughout the country between about 30°N and about 45°N, particularly in Hokkaido, every prefecture of the Tohoku region, and in Nagano, Niigata, and Kumamoto Prefectures. Hokkaido is the largest producer of Soybeans in Japan, with a national share of 42.5% (93,000 tons), followed by Miyagi (8.6%), Fukuoka (4.7%), and Saga (4.6%). Each prefecture selects and recommends varieties suitable to its district.

Also, Hokkaido (with a population of approximately 5.25 million) ranks first in terms of “Soybean production per capita,” with a per capita production of roughly 18 (kg). The planted area is 38,900 (ha). This is equivalent to about 0.4% of the total area of Hokkaido.

Miyagi Prefecture has an annual production of 18,800 tons. Miyagi Prefecture (population approx. 2.31 million) ranks 4th in terms of “Soybean production per capita,” with a per capita production of approx. 8 (kg). The planted area is in 2nd place with 10,800 (ha). This is equivalent to a site that occupies about 1.5% of Miyagi Prefecture as a whole, and it is calculated that “about 1/67 of Miyagi Prefecture is a Soybean field.”

The annual production of Fukuoka Prefecture is 10,300 tons. Fukuoka Prefecture (with a population of about 5.1 million) ranks 13th in terms of “Soybean production per capita,” with a per capita production of about 2 (kg). The planted area is 8,220 (ha), in 4th place. This corresponds to an area that occupies about 1.65% of the entire Fukuoka Prefecture, and it is calculated that “about 1/61 of Fukuoka Prefecture is a Soybean field.”

Japan: Brazil Plays Big in the Soybean Meal Market

Japan’s Soybean Trade

According to the AgFlow data, the United States led the Japanese Soybean import market with 2.3 million tons in 2022, followed by Brazil (0.6 million tons) and Russia (4,880 tons). In terms of Soybean meal, Japan imported 0.7 million tons from Brazil, followed by Argentina (63,953 tons).

In 2020, Japan imported Soybeans worth $1.41 billion, becoming the world’s 8th largest importer of Soybeans. In the same year, Soybeans were Japan’s 87th most imported product. Japan imports Soybeans primarily from: the United States ($1.03 billion), Canada ($196 million), Brazil ($157 million), China ($21.2 million), and Russia ($1.34 million).

In October 2022, Japan’s Soybeans exports accounted for up to ¥1.84 million, and imports accounted for up to ¥36.4 billion, resulting in a negative trade balance of ¥36.4 billion. Between September 2021 and October 2022, the exports of Japan’s Soybeans decreased by ¥1.98 million (-52%) from ¥3.82 million to ¥1.84 million, while imports increased by ¥18.4 billion (102%) from ¥18.1 billion to ¥36.4 billion.

In October 2022, Soybeans were mainly exported to Hong Kong (¥750k), the United States (¥652k), and Germany (¥435k). In October 2022, the increase in Soybeans’ year-by-year imports was explained primarily by the rise in imports from Russia (¥2.85 million or 87%).

Other sources: URAHYOJI

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