History of World Soybean Production and Trade - Part 2

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and
Soyfoods, 1100 B.C. to the 1980s

©Copyright 2004 Soyfoods Center, Lafayette, Californi

Part 1 | Part 2


1940-1949 . The dizzying rise of American soybean production during World War II exceeded even the wildest expectations or hopes. Already quite large, the crop more than doubled during the war and increased an astonishing 77% (from 106-188 million bushels) during the single year from 1941-1942, during which the US passed both Manchuria and China to become the world's leading soybean producing nation. This colorful Jack-in-the-Beanstalk story, which starts in the 1920s, is told by Ed Dies in Gold from the Soil (1942). During the war, even among agricultural researchers, usually a plain-spoken group not given to hyperbole, the soybean came to be referred to as "the miracle bean," "the wonder bean," or "the Cinderella bean." For farmers it became, quite literally, gold from the soil, as it strode forth as the prodigy of American agriculture.

When World War II started in September 1939, all commodity prices zoomed upward (Fig. 2.X). Soybeans were viewed as a speculative item that touched the fancy of investors. The single most important factor in the early rise of the soybean in America was the shortage of domestic oils and fats created by World War II. The outbreak of war between Japan and the US in December 1941 cut off virtually all US imports of East Asian oils, fats, and oilseeds (soy was but one of these), representing roughly 1,000 million pounds of oils and fats a year, or approximately two-thirds of the total annual prewar imports (Burtis 1950). Ironically, then, it was Japan who thrust the soybean into prominence in the Western world, an act which eventually contributed to the downfall of Manchuria as a major producer and exporter. Also during the war, the US became the chief foreign supplier of fats to the United Kingdom and the USSR; these Allies requested 1,000 million pounds in 1942. Moreover the production of butter, which made inefficient use of feed crops, decreased during the war, and had to be partially replaced by soy and other vegetable oils, much of them in the form of margarine, whose production increased dramatically ?? To ensure that these great needs for additional oils and fats (as well as for food and feeds) were met, the USDA initiated programs to encourage production of oilseeds, especially soybeans. In early 1942 a USDA pamphlet was issued and widely circulated among farmers. Entitled "Soybean Oil and the War: Grow More Soybeans for Victory," it urged farmers to immediately increase soybean acreage harvested for beans from the previous year's 6 million acres up to 9 or 10 million; in 1941 the USDA had begun the first government soybean price support program to encourage farmers to do this (actually the market price rose higher than the support price) and even offered to help farmers harvest their crop by bringing in combines if there were not enough in the local area. The flier closed with these words: "Remember--when you grow more soybeans, you are helping America to destroy the enemies of freedom." The USDA also established programs to help soybean processors expand their factories at reduced risks. Both farmers and processors rolled up their sleeves, worked hard, and met the quotas.

A major factor in the expansion of soybean production during the 1940s and thereafter was the development of improved soybean varieties using new hybridization breeding techniques. In 1936 the USDA and various state agricultural experiment stations had started a cooperative program for varietal improvement. The first variety developed by this program, based on work done by Woodworth prior to 1936, was Lincoln, which was released in 1943. Later came Hawkeye, Ogden, Clark, Lee, Amsoy, Corsoy, Beeson, Williams, and many others. Before this program started, new varieties had been produced by selection from promising introduction; releases from 1943 on were created by hybridization, which combined the best points of two parents.

Many soybean growers and processors expressed a deep concern that when the war ended, there would be a huge decrease in demand for soybeans and soybean products. Their fears proved to be unfounded, for four major new factors came into operation during the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s that served to further expand demand for US soybeans.

1950-1959 . The four major factors mentioned above, all of which were closely interconnected, were the virtual disappearance of Manchuria as a major producer and exporter to the world market, the rise of America to replace Manchuria as the world's leading exporter to a growing world market, the rapid decline in acreage of all of America's other major farm crops and the replacement of much of this acreage by soybeans, the dramatic growth of the feedlot system and the demand for soybean meal in mixed livestock feeds, based, in both cases, on a large increase in the US per capita consumption of animal products. One additional lesser factor was the increased use of soy oil in margarine.

Manchuria. Just prior to World War II, the great majority of soybeans in world trade flowed out of Manchuria, either to nearby Japan or down the coast of China, past Singapore, through the Straits of Malacca, the torrid Red Sea, and the Suez Canal, across the Mediterranean, out of the Straits of Gibraltar, up through the English Channel, and into ports in England (London, Hull, ??), Netherlands, (Amsterdam), and northern Germany (Hamburg). The journey was very long and, in passing through the tropics, partially damaged the soybeans. There was a small flow of soybeans from the US directly over to northern Europe, a much shorter and cooler trip. During the war Manchuria trade routes were cut by the blockade of Europe?? In the years after the war, the flow of soybeans along both of Manchuria's major trade routes was reduced to a trickle by the revolutionary war in China, and by the Korean War?? By the late 1940s the majority of soybeans in world trade flowed from the US over to northern Europe. In the period 1946-49, the US exported 2.5 times as much soybeans as China and Manchuria; thereafter this proportion steadily increased.

Rise of US Exports. US exports of soybeans, oil, and meal, which had been very small during World War II (the equivalent of less than 2% of the domestic crop), started to rise immediately after the war. Soybean exports jumped to 626,000 tonnes (23 million bu) in 1948?? Trade routes were established with Europe, supplying Allied countries with soybeans, oil, flour, and meal. Most important, America offered generous financing to poverty- and famine-stricken postwar Europe via organizations such as the ECA (Economic Cooperation Administration). Japan also became a major market, first because American dominance in the country's postwar administration encouraged the purchase of soybeans from the US through the use of economic aid, and later because the Korean War and the political situation in China made it difficult for Japan to trade with her soybean producing neighbors. In the postwar years it became clear that America could produce much more soybeans than the domestic market could consume. The American Soybean Association and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) foresaw a huge potential demand for these soybeans abroad and began exploring ways of reaching and expanding these markets as described in Chapter 39. In 1949, 1952, and 1954 groups were sent to study the potentials of the northern European market. The enactment of Public Law 480 (PL 480) in 1954 and its amendment by the Food for Peace Act of 1966 helped to stimulate exports of soy products, especially in the early years of soy oil and flour.

By 1955 Japan had become America's largest single customer for soybeans and soybean products. The extensive market development activities undertaken thereafter caused exports of soybean to Japan to jump from 555,000 tonnes (20.4 million bushels) in 1955 to 1,110,000 tonnes in 1959, to a record 2,688,000 tonnes in 1973. This represented a 484% increase in only 17 years or an amazing 28.5% growth rate per year. All of these soybeans were paid for in US dollars.

Because of vigorous overseas market development programs, soybean exports climbed rapidly during the late 1950s and 1960s, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of the US domestic crop; in 1969 for the first time America exported the equivalent of more than 50% of its soybeans (52.9%). When the first OPEC oil shock hit in 1973, causing petroleum prices to triple overnight, soybeans began to be seen as a critical factor in maintaining the nation's balance of trade, generating the money needed to pay for expensive petroleum, as well as for rubber, cocoa, coffee, minerals, and winter fruits and vegetables from Latin America. In 1973 soybean exports were worth about $3,000 million, or about 5% of all exports (Dovring 1974). To balance the skyrocketing price of petroleum imports, in about 1972 the USDA began what has since come to be known as the "export push." Although agricultural exports increased dramatically, the cost of imports rose much faster than the value of exports after 1976, causing a rapidly increasing negative trade balance. Soybeans and soybean products, by 1979, had become America's agricultural export superstars, netting $7,500 million that year, making it the top ag export earner with 23% of total ag export earnings (ahead of feed grains 21%, wheat and flour 15%, and livestock and livestock products 10%), and the second overall export earner behind aircraft. Over 50% of the total soybean crop was exported. In 1978 America exported more soybeans than it grew in 1967. By 1981 US agricultural exports were expected?? to bring in $47,000 million, accounting for about 20% of total US export revenues; this was expected to pay for roughly half of all US oil imports. And soybean exports were expected to pay for about 12% of all oil imports. (Need more on problems with the Export Push.)

A list of America's major customers for soybean exports is shown in Figure 2.8. The European Economic Community (EEC) was the largest group customer; Netherlands and Japan were the largest individual markets.

Replacement of Surplus Farm Crops. Between 1950 and 1970, the harvested acreage of every major American farm crop (except soybeans and grain sorghum) decreased dramatically (Fig. 2.9). The change from the use of the horse to mechanical power on farms reduced the need for feed and led to the decline in acreage of oats and hay. The decline in acreage for corn, wheat, and cotton was due largely to federal acreage restriction programs designed to reduce surpluses of these crops. After 1950, cotton acreage also declined due to competition from rayon and other synthetic fabrics. Soybeans, not subject to government restraints, took over the acreage vacated by these surplus crops. It was not until 1942 that the harvested acreage of soybeans exceeded that of another major American crop--sorghum. Soybeans then passed cotton in the mid-1950s, oats in the early 1960s, and wheat and hay in the mid-1970s. It passed corn grown for grain in 1979 and was very near to passing corn grown for all purposes.

Since the mid-1950s, soybeans have competed primarily with corn in the northern and central states and cotton in the South. The main (but not the only) factor determining which crop got planted was the expected price ratio between soybeans and the competing crops. Although soybean yield is much lower than corn, the price per bushel is higher; from 1967 to 1978 it ranged from 2.0-3.5 as high per bushel. In the same period the price of a bushel of cotton ranged from 2.7 to 7.0 times the price of a bushel of soybeans. When the soy:corn ratio is expected to be high or the cotton:soy ratio is low, farmers tend to plant soybeans. When both the soy:corn ratio is high and the cotton:soy ratio is low (as was the case in 1973 and 1977), record soybean plantings result. Another factor is that if weather conditions are unfavorable at the time for corn planting, farmers may wait out the weather and plant soybeans later. Through the 1960s and 1970s, soybean acreage averaged about 60% of corn acreage and 250% of cotton acreage.

Rise of the Feedlot System and Meat Consumption. See Chapter 26 Oil and Meal.

A discussion of the increased consumption of margarine and of the use of soy oil in margarine starting in the 1950s is given in Chapter 27.

1960-1980 . Various agronomists have noted that chemical control of weeds was probably the most important technical advance in soybean production between 1965 and 1975. As recently as 1950 herbicides (weed killers) were still just in the testing and developmental stages prior to commercial release. Bigger, more efficient, and much more expensive farm machinery (especially combines) helped reduce the labor time required to produce a bushel of soybeans, while also helping to increase yields by reducing harvesting losses. It also, however, gave a competitive edge to the large farmer and helped put small farmers out of business.

Soybean breeding was very active during this (1960-80) period. As shown in Figure 2.X, soybean yields steadily increased, rising 36% from 23.5 bu/a in 1960 to 32.2 bu/a in 1979. Certain states had much higher yields than the nationwide average. In 1979 Illinois got 38.5 bu/a, followed by Iowa at 38.0 and Ohio and Indiana at 36.0. In 1968 the magic 100 bu/a barrier was first broken by a commercial farmer, George Simmons of Ozark, Missouri, who achieved 109.6 bu/a. Despite these respectable gains, however, soybean yield increases have been proportionally far below those registered by "Green Revolution" hybrids such as corn and sorghum. Corn yields, for example, more than doubled between 1958 and 1980. Thus one of the primary objectives of most soybean breeding and agronomic programs is to "break the yield barrier." It should be noted that an increase in US soybean yields of just 1 bushel per acre (67.39 kg/ha) would produce an additional 70,000,000 bushels (1,905,000 tonnes) of soybeans. This is enough to provide the yearly protein requirements for 28.9 million people. Hence the vital function of breeding and cultural improvements.

In Chapter 1 we discussed the early and extensive work with varietal improvement in the US. Between 1898 and 1970 over 10,000 soybean samples were introduced to America. Prior to 1960 most of the soybean breeding in the US was done by the USDA and university scientists (SD Aug 70 p 68??) (Fig. 2.9). During the 1960s private commercial soybean breeding began. After congress passed the Plant Variety Protection Act of 1971 (which basically allowed private companies to patent new hybrid seeds), many commercial seed companies began developing new soybean hybrids; the first hybrid soybeans, all patented, became commercially available in the late 1970s. Hybrid soybeans result from cross pollenating two different strains of the same plant. The seeds born by a first-generation crop, however, are sterile, so the farmer, who traditionally produced his own seeds by saving those from his best plants, now had to buy all his seeds each year from the hybrid seed companies. While resulting in higher yields, this new system raised seed prices, caused many traditional non-hybrid varieties to fall into disuse, and perhaps eventually extinction with the loss of precious, irreplaceable germplasm. It also facilitated concentration of control over seed production in the hands of a small number of companies, most of them owned by multinational corporations. With the growing demand for soybeans with a high protein or oil content, there is a good chance that present grading regulations will be changed to reflect the composition of the beans, thus creating a price incentive for farmers to grow beans rich in oil or protein ( Soybean Update , Year?? 4 (22:3).

The price of soybeans in dollars per bushel received by farmers from 1924 to 1978 are shown in Figure 2.12. Note the sudden rise in price, starting in 1969, as compared with the previous 20 years. This increase was caused both by difficulty of continuing the rapid expansion of supply (most previously idled US farmland had been returned to use and there had been no breakthrough in per-acre yields) and by inflation-caused rising production costs. As farmland becomes increasingly scarce and demand for protein increases due to affluence-related demand for animal products and world population growth, soybean prices may be expected to continue to rise. Note also, however, that in real dollars (inflation adjusted, with 1967 as base), soybean prices in 1969 were lower than at any time since 1937-39, and that the latest given price (1978) is the same as the price was in 1953.

The yearly value of US farm crops is computed by the USDA in two ways: the sales value is the total amount of money received by farmers for selling their crops (this is also called the "crop value" or "farm value") and the production value is the total amount of crop produced (including that used on the farm, not sold) times the average price per unit weight for the crop that year. In 1972 or 1973?? soybeans passed corn to become America's number one cash crop in terms of sales value; the production value of corn was much greater than that of soy, but much of the corn was not sold, being used on the farm for livestock feeds. In 1980 the sales value for soy was still tops, $13,640 million compared with $13,500 million for corn and $8,900 million for wheat. Production values for 1980 were: corn $21,600 million, soybeans $13,800 million, and wheat $9,400 million. Moreover, soybeans and soybean products have been the leading US agricultural export earners since 1962.

In 1980, thirty states had a significant acreage in soybeans (Fig. 2.13). There were roughly 600,000 soybean growers. The top 10 states, each with over 50,000,000 bushels (1.36 million tonnes) are listed in figure 2.14. Note that all five of the Corn Belt states are among the top six producers. All three of the Delta States (Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi) are in the top ten. The only representative of the Lake States (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan) is Minnesota. The top soybean producing counties are shown in Figure 2.14. Champaign county in Illinois has long been the nation's leading soybean producing county??. Note that, simply speaking, soybeans grow best in the great triangle between the Missouri and Ohio rivers, and down the Mississippi River. Only very small quantities are grown west of the 100th meridian, since summer drought inhibits the crop or requires irrigation. How end this??

The Future. One way to make projections about the future is to look at present problems and at viable alternatives that would help solve them. During the 1970s and early 1980s, there was a growing awareness among the general public of the seriousness of the problems of world hunger, shortages of energy and other resources, and decline in the quality of the environment (including the soil) from pollution, erosion, etc. There was also a growing interest in eating more natural and healthful foods. In each of these areas the conventional methods of producing and utilizing soybeans came under criticism:

The Feedlot System. While the feedlot system, as the consumer of more than 90% of the domestic defatted soybean meal, spurred soybean production, it also created a host of problems or potential problems. First, in a world with serious shortages of food, protein, and land, it makes extremely inefficient use of all three, since an acre of land planted to soybeans for food use can produce roughly 20 times as much protein as the same land used to grow cattle or their fodder. The feedlot system transforms nutritional abundance into scarcity and sets people in poorer countries into direct competition with livestock for precious protein supplies. The most influential statement of this argument and of the advantages of a meatless diet was presented in Lappe's Diet for a Small Planet (1971), which had sold over 2 million copies by 1980. Second, feedlots became major sources of pollution. By 1970 over 41 such lots contained more than 32,000 head of cattle, each of which produced 34 cubic feet of manure a year. This polluted waterways (causing eutrophication, followed by algae growth., oxygen depletion, and eventual death of fish in lakes) and the surrounding air, while also attracting flies and rodents. Third, because animal manures were no longer spread on fields as fertilizer, dependence on increasingly costly petroleum-based nitrogen fertilizers was increased. Fourth, the huge amounts of water, land, energy, and agrichemicals required to grow the feedlot grains and to process the animals became a huge drain on the nation's dwindling and increasingly costly resources. Pimentel et al. (1975) calculated that it takes 92 times more total energy and 36 times more fossil fuel energy to produce 1 pound of usable protein for feedlot beef than from soybeans, and that it takes 46.9 times as much water and 15-20 times as much land to produce 1 pound of protein from beef as from soybeans. Writing in Scientific American (1974), Dovring put it concisely in saying that "the trends in meat consumption and energy consumption are on a collision course." And fifth, to quote Dovring again, "A revival of America's role as food grower for much of the world will be easier to achieve if the US can slow down or halt the trend toward devoting an increasing amount of land to feed domestic animals for increased consumption of meat."

Alternatives? Use soybeans directly in the form of soyfoods rather than running them through animals.

The Export Push. Granted farm exports are a key factor in paying America's rising bill for imported petroleum, but they may be causing even deeper problems. The over-intensive use of the land is causing widespread erosion, depletion of nonrenewable underground water reserves, concentration of America's farmland in the hand of a small number of large and powerful growers, and immense profits to the five grain exporting companies that control 80% of world trade: Cargill, Continental, and ?? Thus America is mining its precious topsoil and underground aquifers (largely nonrenewable underground water-bearing strata of permeable rock) to pay for oil.

Alternatives? Reduce energy consumption in America by conservation and development of safe (non-nuclear) renewable sources, including all of the many forms of solar. This strategy is increasingly set forth as least costly and safest way by groups as prestigious as the Harvard Business School ( Energy Future , 1979 Ref??).

Overuse of Agrichemicals. For most farmers, the biggest problems with chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides is that they are increasingly expensive; the price of nitrogen fertilizers, for example, because they are petroleum based, quadrupled between 1973 and 1980. A growing number of farmers are also coming to realize that excessive use of agrichemicals has destroyed the humus (the organic portion of soil resulting from partial composition of plant or animal matter) and microlife in their soils, making them much more subject to erosion, less able to hold water, and weaker in their ability to sustain strong, healthy plants. Weak plants require the use of more pesticides, a vicious circle. Soil is the very life and foundation of civilizations, and many that have destroyed their soil have perished. American farms are now losing topsoil at the fastest rate in recent history. Apparently the lessons of the Dust Bowl years have been forgotten. Moreover pesticides and herbicides have been shown to work their way into the food chain; the long-term consequences are unclear. DDT was banned for this reason.

Alternatives? Starting in 1980 the USDA began encouraging and teaching farmers to move toward a new mix of traditional and modern farming practices, using crop rotation (including soybeans) instead of expensive nitrogen fertilizers, integrated pest management, disease resistance seeds, and healthy soil instead of insecticides and disease sprays, and careful tilling instead of herbicides??. By 1981 there were an estimated 150,000 ?? acres of soybeans in the US grown without chemicals of any type. These farmers claimed yields higher than the national average, considerably higher profits due to lower chemical bills, healthier crops, and a long-term investment in their most precious asset--their soil.

The Landed Aristocracy. Various factors including the rising costs of land, agricultural inputs, and money, decades of government policy, and the growing trend to view agriculture as a prime speculative industry, have led to the concentration of American farmland in the hands of an ever decreasing group of rich and powerful organizations. A study commissioned by Bob Bergland, head of the USDA under President Carter, concluded that America could be moving rapidly toward a landed aristocracy similar to that in Latin America. Yet it is well known that small farms have significantly greater output per acre than large farms, so the present trend is away from strong productivity. It also undercuts a long-term American belief in the value of the life of the small farmer.

Alternatives? One promising sign is that the 1980 census showed a movement, for the first time in decades, of Americans out of the cities and back into the country, some of them onto small farms. Still, clear-cut government policies will be needed to reverse trends.


Virtually all (98%) of the Canadian soybean crop is grown in Ontario, especially in southern Ontario, southernmost point in Canada, sandwiched between Michigan and New York, but there were also up to 2,500 acres in southern Manitoba in the early 1940s. Small-scale commercial production began in Canada at about the same time it began in the US. The Canadian crop reached 1 million bushels in 1946, 2 million in 1949, 4 million in 1952, 8 million in 1965, 16 million in 1977, and 23 million in 1979. This latter amount (672,000 tonnes) is approximately the amount produced by the US in 1934. Yet in 1979/80, Canada was the world's fifth largest producer, after the USA, Brazil, China, and Argentina. Statistics on Canadian soybean production and utilization from 1942 to the present are given in the Soya Bluebook . Production data from 1936-1948 are given in Markley (1951). In 1979/80 (update??) Canada had 700,000 acres in soybeans yielding 33.0 bu/a.


Latin America, led by Brazil, became a factor in world soybean production starting in the late 1960s, as shown in Figures 2.2, 2.6, and 2.12. Argentina's production takeoff started in about 1970. Paraguay and Mexico have produced small acreages with little growth since 1971 and 1974 respectively. In 1975 Latin America passed Asia to become the world's second largest soybean producing region, after the US.

The story of Brazil's rise to fame is an interesting one. Soybeans were being grown commercially on a small scale by the early 1900s (source??), but the crop grew slowly: 8,500 tonnes a year average from 1940-49, then 36,000 tonnes in 1950, 106,000 in 1955, 206,000 in 1960, and 523,000 in 1965. The 1 million ton (tonne??) mark was broken in 1969, yet America paid little attention. In 1975, however, the world soybean industry was astonished to learn that Brazil had passed China to become the world's number two producer, with a record harvest of 11.6 million tonnes. What caused this remarkable success story? First, the government, looking for export crops to generate currency to pay for expensive imports (especially petroleum), offered handsome subsidies and price supports to soybean farmers. The Japanese offered technical assistance to increase soybean production on 320 million acres of marginal frontier land. In the late 1960s Brazil's oilseed crushing industry began crushing soybeans. Then came the US soybean export embargo of 1973, that artificially raised world prices until it became profitable for even the most inefficient producer to grow soybeans (Harrison 1976). Most of Brazil's production and processing is in Brazil's two southernmost states: Rio Grande do Sul (which has 50% of the country's total acreage) and Parana (which has 30%). Brazil exported a large proportion of its crop, with an increasingly large percent processed into oil and meal before export. Because Brazilian soybeans yield about 4.5% more oil and 4.5% more protein than US soybeans, they are much in demand on world markets and attract a premium price. More important, Brazilian meal is guaranteed to contain 47-48% protein, while US meal is sold as 44%. Finally Brazilian beans enjoy a seasonal advantage. They are harvested from March to May, while US beans are harvested from September to October. Although Brazil's share of the world market has declined from its peak of almost 20% in 1976 (largely from droughts), the country promises to be an increasingly strong producer in the future.

Likewise Argentina, whose production increases began in about 1975, and whose first exports began in 1976, promises to be a growing factor in world soybean markets.

Mexico, though a moderate sized producer, imports about twice as much soybeans as she produces.


Although serious interest in soybean cultivation began in Europe with the work of Haberlandt before it started in America (see Chapter 1), Europe never became a major soybean producing area. The large quantities of soybeans and soybean products (especially oil and meal) used in Europe are mostly imported. Soybean production figures for major European countries from 1928-1979 are shown in Figure 2.18. Note that virtually all of Europe's soybeans are produced in southern Eastern European countries, especially in the Danube basin south of 47° north latitude. Most of the Soviet Union's soybeans are produced in the area just east of Romania, in the Moldavian SSR, formerly Romanian Bessarabia.

There are various reasons that Europe has never become a major soybean producer: (1) the climate is relatively unfavorable, characterized in many areas by a cool spring and a drought in early summer; (2) most of Europe is located quite far north; a line of 40° north latitude, which runs through the center of the US soybean belt in Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa, also runs through the middle of Spain, southern Italy, and northern Greece. Paris and southern Germany are on the same latitude as the US-Canadian border and northern Manchuria. Thus in northern European countries only very early varieties of soybeans will mature; (3) because of high population density in Europe, land is scarce and expensive, and most farms are small and relatively unmechanized. Thus into the 1980s, soybeans grown on America's huge mechanized farms could be imported at lower cost than they could be grown in Europe. The rapid rise in fuel costs, however, and the need to conserve foreign exchange, however, may soon make European production cost effective.

Growth of Trade (1900-1945) . Although the first large-scale imports of soybeans into Europe began in 1908 (1906?? as discussed earlier at Manchuria), small scale imports began as early as 1900, when an English firm imported small amounts of soybeans as a starch-free food for use in diabetic diets. Germany and Holland soon began importing soybeans for the same reasons, and many special diabetic foods were manufactured commercially in these countries (Piper and Morse 1923).

The first attempts to introduce soybeans as an oilseed in the early 1900s were generally unsuccessful because of the inferior quality of the product received, due principally to the long, hot shipping route. [Repeat oil?? The first large importation of soybeans, 400-500 tons, was made in 1907 by an oilseed crusher in Liverpool. The beans were shipped from Hankow, China, and delivered at $50 per ton. The oil was used to make soap and the meal was used in mixed livestock feeds. After 1907 imports gradually increased, largely because of the European shortage of cottonseed and linseed. The beans were received in increasingly better condition. In February 1908 a cargo of 9,000 tons was received at Hull, the first really large shipment from Manchuria. Soon many large English mills were crushing only soybeans. England grew to enjoy a virtual monopoly of the soybean trade, partially because soybeans (classified as a bean rather than an oilseed) were subjected to an import tax in Germany, France, and Austria. These countries, however, realizing the importance of the new bean, soon placed it on the duty-free list and started large scale importing. European imports of soybeans from Manchuria and Japan soon reached enormous proportions: in 1909, 412,757 tons and in 1910 442,669 tons (Piper and Morse 1923). Imports declined slightly until 1922, when they increased sharply due to the rapid rise of the soybean processing industry in Europe, especially in Germany; Hamburg and the surrounding area soon became the leading oilseed processing center of Europe (see Chapter 26). Net soybean imports to Germany, which averaged only about 3 million bushels a year from 1910-1920, increased rapidly to an average of about 40 million bushels a year in 1929-1933; during this peak period, Germany accounted for roughly two-thirds of all European soybean imports. Thereafter German imports from Asia decreased as the country, preparing for war, sought greater self sufficiency in oils and proteins by starting cultivation of soybeans in the Danubian (Balkan) countries. In 1935 Europe's four leading soybean importers, in descending order of size, were Germany, Denmark, Britain, and the Netherlands. After World War II began, Germany imported substantial quantities of soybeans from the Balkans and some by rail from Manchuria. But the latter source was cut off when Germany attacked the USSR in 1941 (Burtis, 1950).

European Soybean Production . In 1919 Morse and Hendrick wrote that the soybean had been grown only to a limited extent in Europe, with Germany, the USSR, France, and Italy having shown the greatest interest. In the 1920s soybeans were grown primarily as a forage crop (Ferree 1929). However production was insignificant until 1935, when the Germans (primarily two companies) began a program of encouraging large-scale soybean plantings in the Danubian countries, particularly in Romania and Bulgaria, by distributing selected seed and inocula, and guaranteeing a specific, very favorable price for the soybeans from contracted acreage. Largely as a result of this arrangement, soybean production in Romania leaped from about 25,000 bushels (680 tonnes) in 1934 to well over 3 million bushels (82,000 tonnes) in 1939 and 1940. Production in Bulgaria increased from about 350,000 bushels (9,500 tonnes) in 1935 to a peak of about 2.5 million bushels (68,000 tonnes) in 1941. Hungarian production reached a peak of 1 million bushels (27,200 tonnes) in 1941. The total soybean production for five Danubian countries from 1934-1948 is shown in Figure 2.19. Production fell to less than 1 million bushels a year with the collapse of the German market as the war ended (Burtis 1950).

Eastern Europe and the USSR . Soybean production in the USSR has been substantial since it was first reported in 1928 (Fig. 2.19). Major increases started in the early 1950s and were characterized by huge fluctuations after 1970. Why?? In 1979 the USSR was the world's sixth largest soybean producing nation, but with less than 1% of the US production.

The Danubian countries, after their spurt of production in the late 1930s, produced few soybeans until Romania production began to take off again in 1966, followed by Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Hungary, all in 1974.

Western Europe . As of 1979, the only soybean producers in Western Europe were Spain (29,000 tonnes) and France (18,000 tonnes); production figures for Spain were first recorded in 1971 and for France in 1974. Both are still extremely small, but are increasing.

Starting in the mid-1950s, Europe once again became a major soybean importer as she had been during the 1930s. By 1979 the EEC alone was importing 11.99 million tonnes of soybeans and 5.88 million tonnes of soybean meal, mostly from the US, Brazil, and Argentina. Virtually all of the protein from the beans and oil were used as livestock fodder. In 1973 the EEC set the goal of reducing its dependence on imported protein, in part by growing more domestic soybeans. The results of this program remain to be seen, for as of 1979, imports continued to increase steadily. The biggest customers for US soybeans in 1979 were Netherlands (4.2 million tonnes), Spain (1.8), and West Germany (1.3). Main customers for meal were Netherlands (825,000 tonnes), Italy (678,000), and West Germany (50,000).


The work of INTSOY (see Chapter 44) and its ISVEX program in breeding high-yielding soybeans for tropical countries, offers new hope that a number of Third World countries having critical needs for protein, may soon become significant soybean producers. One country showing great promise is India. The Soya Bluebook first showed production data for India in 1971; the crop increased from 18,000 tonnes in that year to 35,000 tonnes in 1974, then 70,000 tonnes in 1975, and 150,000 tonnes in 1977??, and a remarkable 250,000 tonnes in 1979. This represents a 14-fold increase in just eight years. (For Sri Lanka, see Chapter 54.)


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