History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in South Asia/Indian Subcontinent (1656-2010)
William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-928914-31-0
Publication Date: 2010 Nov. 29
Number of References in Bibliography: 3663
Earliest Reference: 1656
India: "Soybean was probably introduced to India from China through the Himalayan mountains several centuries ago. Some believe that it was also brought via Burma by traders from Indonesia. Small, black-seeded varieties were successfully grown in the central provinces of India in 1882 (Lal, 1968), and soybean has been cultivated in the northern hills since time immemorial” (B.B. Singh, 1987, p. 111-12; Hymowitz and Kaizuma 1981).
1656 – India: Soy sauce is among the list of items ordered to be sent to the Dutch settlement at Bengal, from Japan by the Dutch East India Company (Sterthemius, March 1656). “Order for: 8 little kegs of good soy [sauce] (8 balietges geode soeija), 2 kegs of pickled vegetables (connemonne [kô-no-mono]), 2 kegs of good sake (sackje),...
1671 – Sri Lanka: Soy sauce is among the list of items ordered to be sent to the Dutch settlement at Colombo, Ceylon, from Japan by the Dutch East India Company (List of goods, Dec. 1671).
1676 – Sri Lanka: Soy sauce is again among the list of items ordered to be sent to the Dutch settlement at Ceylon, from Japan by the Dutch East India Company (Hoorn, July 1676). “For Ceylon (Chijlon): 48 kegs of provisions as follows: 20 kegs of good sake, 12 kegs soy [sauce] (Soija), 8 kegs pickled vegetables, 4 kegs salted, pickled plums [umeboshi]…”
1717 – Sri Lanka: First report of soybean cultivation in Ceylon (today’s Sri Lanka) (Hermann 1717, p. 22) The source of these soybeans is unknown. They may have been introduced by Dutch traders as early as the mid-1600s at the time of the Dutch occupation (from 1658 to 1796), when cultural practices were introduced from the Dutch East Indies (today's Indonesia).
1798 – India: Soybeans are first cultivated in India "Dolichos soja Willd… Reared in the Honourable Company's Botanic garden [across the Hooghly / Hugli River from Calcutta] from seeds received from the Moluccas [in today's Indonesia] in 1798” (Roxburgh 1832, p. 314-15; Beckman 1798, p. 342-45). Note: Since the soybean arrived in India long before this date, there must be earlier records in native language documents.
1819 – Nepal: Soybeans are first cultivated in Nepal (Hamilton 1819, p. 228). But there must be earlier records in native language documents.
1868 – Pakistan: Soybeans may have been cultivated in what is today’s Pakistan (Powell 1868)
1879 – North East States of India: First report of soybean cultivation (Baker 1879, in J.D. Hooker, p. 183-84). "Himalayas, tropical region; Kumaon to Sikkim, Khasia [in today’s Meghalaya] and Ava [in today’s Burma], often cultivated.” Note: In 1885 soybean cultivation was reported in Manipur and Nagaland. The soybean probably arrived in this area at a much earlier date via the southern Silk Route / Silk Road.
1881 – Afghanistan: First report of soybeans cultivated in Afghanistan (Aitchison 1881, p. 15).
1881 – Pakistan: First clear report of soybean cultivation in what is today’s Pakistan (Aitchison 1881, p. 15).
1882 – India: “Professor Kinch urged the advisability of renewed efforts [to grow soya] in the Himalayan tracts, and, as a consequence, the government of India directed the attention of local officials to the subject. Seed obtained from the Government Gardens, Saharanpur, were distributed to Madras, the Panjab, Bengal, Bombay, Hyderabad, and Burma, for experimental cultivation. It appears to have been grown from seed obtained from China with a fair amount of success at the Saidapet Experimental Farm in 1882" (Watt 1890, p. 511).
1883 – India: An article in the Times of India (Aug. 21, p. 3) titled “The Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester” An Indian correspondent of the Madras Mail writes: "I cannot conclude this notice of a most interesting educational institution – which all Anglo-Indians at home on furlough would do well to visit – without mentioning the Agricultural Students' Gazette edited by students at the college. In the number for July 1882, I find an article by Professor Kinch, on the Soy bean, a bean which attracted considerable attention in India last year."
1897 – India: An article in the Times of India (Nov. 1, p. 6) titled “Current events: Indian.” "Surgeon-Lieutenant Colonel W.G. King has requested certain officers in Vizagapatam, Bellary, and Saidapat [all in the Madras Presidency at the southwestern tip of British India] to report upon the possibilities of cultivating the 'Soy bean,' with a quantity of which he furnished them. The 'Soy bean' is, he states, probably the most nutritious form of readily assimilable pulse at present known, and should it prove possible to introduce it widely in the Madras Presidency, it would prove of great advantage in jail administration, and also to the poorer classes generally.”
1902 – India: An article in the Times of India (Dec. 1, p. 6) titled “Improving Indian agriculture: Some recent experiments.” It concerns the Bombay Government farms established at Poona and Surat: In the seed store of the experimental farm “there are gathered together specimens of every kind of grain and vegetable which is being tested. A single example will give an idea of the work which is in progress. Here are some half dozen sealed jars containing different varieties of the soy bean. This is largely utilized as human food in Japan, and is much richer in albuminoids than any other pulse. It is grown to a certain extent in Northern India, but the quality is far inferior to that produced in Japan. So Japanese seed has been procured, with a view to its acclimatization and substitution for the inferior Indian variety."
1909 – India: In the Times of India (March 15, p. 14) a “Prospectus” is published for a company which “has been formed for the purpose of erecting and working oil mills at some suitable place in British India or any of the native states in India and for the general purpose of carrying on the business of seed crushers and nut crushers and manufacturers of linseed, cotton, and other cakes, oil extractors and manufacturers, and makers and manufacturers of cattle food and of artificial manures and fertilizers of every description.” The promoters “have secured the services promoters have secured the services of Mr. Louis Hoffman a specialist in refining oils, of great experience, who has been manager in complete charge of large oil works in Germany, Austria and China for over 15 years." One of the seeds of greatest interest to Mr. Hoffman is “Soja beans (Soja Hispida Moench).”
1909 – India: The Indian Trade Journal (July 29, p. 136-38) publishes an excellent, detailed review (by Mr. Burhill) of the many places in India where the soybean is being cultivated, and its various names in each place.
1912 – India: The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) at Pusa publishes its first research on soybeans – obtained from Nagpur. The poor yield (576 lb/acre) was “not sufficient to pay for the cultivation and for the occupation of the land for two seasons" (Report of the Agricultural Research Institute and College, Pusa. For the year 1910-11, p. 20-25).
1912 – India: A letter to the Times of Indian by K.H. Vakil suggests for the first time the manufacture of “vegetable ghee.” He recommends the use of cotton seed oil. Soy is not mentioned..
1936 June – Bhutan: Soybeans first cultivated (Kaltenbach 1936)
1936 Dec. – Bangladesh: First report of soybean cultivation in what is today Bangladesh (Basu 1936).
1938 – India: The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), in an article on the “The nutritive value of Indian cattle foods and the feeding of animals,” by K.C. Sen, first mentions soya beans. A table gives the nutritional composition of soya beans grown in Bihar (Imperial Council of Agricultural Research, Miscellaneous Bulletin, No 25. See p. 20 in Appendix I).
1949 – Sri Lanka: The earliest known commercial soy product in South Asia is made in Ceylon. It is Golden Label Soya Bean Sauce made by Yung Hwa & Company in Dehiwala, Wellampitya, Ceylon (Gleason 1988). Note: Chinese companies throughout South Asia almost certainly made tofu and soy sauce for local Chinese communities long before this time. Records probably exist in the native literature.
1955 July – Sri Lanka: Miss Florence Rose of the Meals for Millions Foundation in Los Angeles, California, travels to Ceylon to introduce multi-purpose food (MPF) – a low-cost, high-protein food based on defatted soy grits. She succeeds in organising the Ceylon Meals for Millions Affiliate under the aegis of the Ceylon Red Cross Society. However it was only after about 1960 that the pursuit of soyabean popularisation was vigorously pursued (Jayasena 1985).
1960 July – India: Uttar Pradesh Agricultural University at Pantnagar, U.P. (northeast of Delhi) becomes the first of India’s new agricultural universities to open. In 1964 Jawaharlal Nehru Agricultural University was officially inaugurated at Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. By the mid-1960s both universities became leaders in the effort to introduce modern soybean production to India.
1961 – India: "India has made its first purchase of U.S. soybean oil – 3,000 metric tons of crude degummed soybean oil under P.L. 480 from North American Continental Co., New York City, the Soybean Council of America announced in late March. This will be the first shipment of U.S. soybean oil to India in history. The purchase is a historic breakthrough…” (Soybean Digest, April, p. 23).
1967 - India: The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the apex funding and coordinating organization for agricultural research in India, establishes an interdisciplinary, multilocational All-India Coordinated Research Project on Soybean. The project headquarters was initially at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi, but was shifted to the agricultural university at Pantnagar in 1973 (Bhatnagar 1983).
1967 – India: “First Indian Soybean Workshop” held Oct. 14. One of the papers presented, published that month in the U.P. Agricultural University, Experiment Station, Technical Bulletin (No. 51, 33 p.) is titled “Soybeans - A cash crop of high potential,” by M.C. Saxena, P.S. Bhatnagar, T. Hymowitz, and R.K. Pandey. Two of India’s first agricultural universities, in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, working closely with soybean specialists for the University of Illinois, are developing modern, scientific soybean production and utilization programs. Outstanding varieties and excellent results are soon achieved. Within 1-2 years it is clearly realized that soybean production has great potential in India. But there is, as yet, almost no market for the soybeans which are produced.
1968 – India: The area planted to newly introduced soybean varieties is 300 to 400 hectares. By 1969 it has increased to 5,000 to 8,000 hectares (Bhatnagar 1983).
1968 – India: The Indian Council of Agricultural Research holds the “First Workshop Conference on Soybean.” Held April 4-5 at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi. The 8-page summary proceedings are published.
1970 – Nepal: Tofu (called Bhatmas ko Paneer) is first made, by Mr. Raghubir Naidya; he learned the process from a Tibetan friend in 1969.
1973 – India: India’s first commercial soymilk, Soyalac (Sweetened), is launched by Spicer Health Foods, Spicer Memorial College (Seventh-day Adventist), Poona, India. The process was learned from Dr. Harry W. Miller during a visit he made to India. Note: In 1971 a semi-commercial soymilk named Sipso Soymilk was introduced by Pantnagar Soymilk Products Pvt. Ltd. at G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar, Uttar Pradesh; it was sold mostly to local college students.
1974 – Bangladesh: First report of soybean cultivation after the nation achieved independence in March 1971 (Haque 1974).
1975 – Afghanistan: First soybean trials with modern varieties in Afghanistan (Whigham 1975).
1980 – Sri Lanka: Carl N. Hittle writes the first progress report to UNDP on the Sri Lanka Soybean Development Program, from 1 July 1978 to 30 June 1979.
1980 July – India: Nutrela High Protein Soya Food (Chunks, and Granules), launched by Ruchi Soya
Industries Ltd. Made of textured soy flour, this is one of India’s most successful soyfood products (Times of India. 1986. Feb. 3, p. 6). “This product is an undisputed market leader having a market share of over 60%."
1982 – India: The Government of India “decides to accept, in principal, the proposal to canalise the export of soyabean meal through the Soyabean Processors'
Association of Indore…” (Times of India, March 3, p. 10).
1984 – India: Imports of soyabean oil skyrocket to 808,000 metric tons – a catastrophe, using huge amounts of India’s precious foreign exchange. India must focus on extracting its own soybean oil from soybeans grown in India. By 1991 the import figure has fallen to only 20,000 metric tons (USDA statistics).
1985 – South Asia: Soybean germplasm collections now exist in the following South Asian countries (listed alphabetically): Bangladesh, India (2 collections), Nepal, Sri Lanka (“Directory of germplasm collections. 1. II. Food legumes (Soyabean)”), by Gail A. Juvik, R.L. Bernard, and H.E. Kauffman.
1986 – India: Soybean production first tops 1 million metric tons.
1987 – India: The best history to date of “Soybean research and development in India,” by B.B. Singh, published. The history is divided into “pre-1965” and “from 1965 to 1985.” Excellent discussion of how a market for soybeans was developed in India. The first two products – soybean oil (made by M.S Oil and Ice Mills, Aligarh) and TSP named 'Nutri Nugget' (made by Nave Technical Institute, Bareilly) - immediately became popular. Thus almost the entire soybean was being used as human food. This marked the beginning of soy-based industries in India.” (In: S.R. Singh, K.O. Rachie, and K.E. Dashiell. eds. 1987. Soybeans for the Tropics. New York: John Wiley & Sons. Chap. 11). Note: Dr. Singh formerly headed the All India Co-ordinated Soybean Research Project at Pantnagar Univ., India.
1987 Jan. – India: National Research Centre for Soybean came into being. The entire funding for the institution is from the Government of India through the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. The total sanctioned staff of the institution is 55 (Bhatnagar 1990).
1990 – India: The total crush increases from 377,500 tonnes in 1984-85 to 12,480,500 tonnes in 1989-90. The huge increase came in 1989-90 (Singh, R.K.; Singh, Ashok Kumar. 1997. "Performance of soybean in the Indian agricultural economy." In: Napompeth, Banpot, ed. 1997. World Soybean Research Conference V: Proceedings. Soybean Feeds the World. Bangkok, Thailand: Kasetsart University Press. See p. 492-97).
1991 – India: India starts to move quickly and decisively toward a free private enterprise economy (driven by entrepreneurs) and away from the generally socialist economy which been predominant since independence.
1991 – India: Soybean production first tops 2 million metric tons.
1994 – India: Soybean production first tops 4 million metric tons.
1994 – India: "The SoyaCow Centre has now been established [by Child Haven International] in Ghaziabad, about 30 minutes drive from Delhi, to serve the growing population of SoyaCows in India. The Centre's main objective is to help women in self-employment by producing and selling soymilk and its products at affordable prices” (SoyaCow Newsletter (Ottawa, Canada), Jan/March, p. 2).
Note 1. Fred and Bonnie Cappuccino of Ontario, Canada, founded Child Haven International in 1985.
Note 2. Raj and Rashmi Gupta of Ontario, Canada (both born in India, both with PhD degrees in physics) developed the SoyaCow, an innovative, low-cost high-quality soymilk making machine, using patented technology, starting in about 1988-1990.
1996 – India: "The successful technology transfer of the SoyaCow SC20 to SSP (Private) Ltd. of Faridabad, India, means that ProSoya can now discontinue manufacturing these units in Canada” (SoyaCow Newsletter (Ottawa, Canada), April/June, p. 1).
2005 – India: Ruchi Soya Industries (RSIL) has been rated by AC Nielsen Asia as the fastest growing "fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) company" in India, showing growth of 62% in 2004/05.
RSIL is the largest maker and supplier of vegetable oils and soya foods in India, and has the largest solvent extraction plant (4,000 tonnes per day) plus a refining capacity of 3,450 tonnes per day.
Ruchi has posted a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 41% in income and 30% in profit over the past 15 years (News Release by Ruchi Soya Industries Ltd.).
2007 – India: Soybean production first tops 8 million metric tons.
2010 – India: Current Status.
Soybean production: India is by far the leading soybean producing country in South Asia, and the 5th largest producer worldwide. In 2010 India produced 9.000 million metric tons of soybeans.
Soybean crush: The great majority of India’s soybeans are crushed to make soy oil and soybean meal. In 2010 about 7.090 million metric tons (78.7% of domestically grown soybeans) were crushed. Almost all of the oil is used in India as a vegetable oil for food or a feedstock for making Vanaspati. Most of the meal is exported for use as livestock feed to earn foreign exchange.
The export of all this high-quality, low-cost soy protein is a tragedy for the nutrition of India’s people - who are largely vegetarians. Much more resources and effort should be put into using India’s abundant soy protein to make delicious soyfoods, as is done in China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
In India 237.7 million people (21% of the total population are undernourished as of Nov. 210 (FAO online statistics).
Soybean oil: Indian is, once again, unable to meet its own needs for vegetable oil. Since 1992 imports of soybean oil have been increasing, reaching an astonishing 2.026 million metric tons in 2005, then decreasing slightly to 1.600 million metric tons in 2010.
Soymilk: India has between 300 and 400 small private soymilk manufacturing companies (most use a SoyaCow machine, made in India) and two large private manufacturers – Godrej and ProSoya Foods – which each make about 5 million liters per year. The smaller companies make about 13 million liters a year.
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