The UK: Large Demand for Soybean Meal


Feb 20, 2023 | Agricultural Markets News

Reading time: 2 minutes

The UK imports more than 3 million tons of Soybean-related derivatives every year, most of which have historically come from just three countries: Brazil, Argentina, and the United States. Dr. John Ingram, Coordination Team Leader on the GFS FSR Program (Resilience of the UK Food System in a Global Context), said: This policy and practice brief highlights the dependency of the UK livestock sector on Soy as a feed source.

The fact that more than 75% of Soy imports have historically come from only three countries exposes this sector to risk, and stresses and shocks, including climate change and changes in trade policy and price volatility, further exacerbate this. Soybean imports have been fluctuating for years. In the twelve months ending June 2022, imports weighed about 688 thousand metric tons, not including Soybeans for sowing.

In 2019, the UK imported 3.5 million tons of Soybean equivalents, and around 75% of this is used for animal feed. According to a 2018 report for the UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya, approximately 2 million tons of the Soy imported into the UK is Soy Meal, virtually all of which is fed to animals. The remaining imports are made up of around 750,000 tons of whole Soybeans and about 200,000 tons of Soy oil.

According to the FAO data, 94 percent of whole Soybeans imported into the UK “were crushed into Soy oil and Soy cake upon arrival,” with 5 percent used for whole-bean animal feed and 1 percent used for human food. When processors crush a Soybean, they get 80 percent cake and 20 percent oil. Since Soy cake is mainly used to feed animals, most imported whole beans are also used for animal agriculture.  

Statistics show that in 2020 the UK imported 2.7 million tons of Soybean Meal equivalent directly as beans, Meal, and oil. In 2020, the United Kingdom imported Soybean Meal worth $633 million, becoming the world’s 13th largest importer of Soybean Meal. In the same year, Soybean Meal was the 179th most imported product in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom imports Soybean Meal primarily from: Argentina ($223 million), the Netherlands ($149 million), Paraguay ($98.7 million), Ireland ($48.3 million), and India ($25.4 million).

In 2020, the United Kingdom exported Soybean Meal worth $32.1 million, making it the 33rd most significant exporter of Soybean Meal in the world. In the same year, Soybean Meal was the 649th most exported product in the United Kingdom. The leading destination of Soybean Meal exports from the United Kingdom is Ireland ($28.4 million), Denmark ($2.69 million), France ($398k), the Netherlands ($297k), and Spain ($148k).

About 57 percent of the Soybeans imported by the United Kingdom for animal feed comes from Brazil. According to AgFlow data, the UK imported 0.46 million tons of Soybeans from Brazil in 2022, followed by the US (0.1 million tons) and Canada (15,500 tons).

The UK: Large Demand for Soybean Meal

Poultry Feed Soybeans in the UK

As of 2019, there were 187 million farmed birds in the UK. Between 2011 and 2017, the number of intensive poultry farms (those housing more than 40,000 birds) increased by 27% to nearly 1500. There are also 575 poultry ‘mega-farms’ – those housing more than 125,000 broiler chickens or 82,000 laying hens. Those chickens are fed mainly Soybeans. According to the Poultry Site, 60 percent of Soybean imported to the UK goes to the poultry sector. Regarding local production, Soybean UK varieties are all bred to produce quality Soybeans while offering the producer the benefits of better and easier harvesting, higher yields, less disease, and earliness of harvest.

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