History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in the Middle East (1889-2021)

William Shurtleff; Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-948436-63-2

Publication Date: 2021 Dec. 19

Number of References in Bibliography: 1111

Earliest Reference: 1889

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Brief Chronology/Timeline of Soy in the Middle East

1889 Sept. 7 – Turkey: The soybean, (a plant belonging to the Papilionaceae), which grows not only in Japan and China, and all of and all of Asia Minor or Anatolia (Klein-Azië) [the Western part of Asian Turkey; forms the greater part of Turkey], but also abundantly in Hungary, has a very peculiar chemical composition (Stokvis 1889, p. 307-18; in Dutch).

This is the earliest document seen concerning the cultivation of soybeans in Turkey, or in the Middle East.

1909 – Turkey: Soya bean products (soya-bean oil) are first reported in Turkey (Carson 1909, p. 28).

1910 – Soya bean “production of the French possessions in Asia, of Asia Minor [which is now the large eastern part of Turkey], and of West Africa is said to be neither large nor promising enough to be of much account for export” (Times (London), July 19, p. 63).

1920 – Turkey and Persia (Iran): 0.4 million piculs of yellow soybeans are exported from China “To Turkey, Persia, Egypt, etc.” (Chinese Economic Monthly, June 1924, p. 12-19). Note: We cannot say for sure to which of these countries the soybeans were exported. Yet these are the first soybeans in the Middle East.

1924 – Lebanon: Soybeans are first reported in Lebanon, and were probably being cultivated in Beirut by the Agricultural Service (Service de l’Agriculture) (Salgues 1937).

1931 – Turkey and the Middle East: Soybeans are cultivated in Turkey by Dr. Drahorad. The source of the soybeans was Brillmayer in Austria (Brillmayer 1947, p. 14-18).

1932 – Syria: Soy products (soy sauce) is first reported in Syria; it was imported to Canada from Syria (Dominion of Bureau Statistics 1934).

1933-34 – Persia: The line of soybeans bred in Platt, Austria, by Franz Brillmayer is sent to Persia via a man who was asked to visit Brillmayer by the Shah of Persia (Brillmayer 1947, p. 14-18).

1935 – Palestine: Experiments in soybean cultivation are conducted at the Rehovot Research Station from 1935-1944 (Kaltenbach 1936; Hurwitz & Golden, 1950).

1935 – Persia is renamed Iran.

1936 – Palestine: “Soya cultivation is not practised in this country though trials have been made at the Mikweh Israel School at Jaffa, but with very little success. A few variety trials were made in 1935 at the Experiment Station of the Department of Agriculture, but no satisfactory results were obtained" (Kaltenbach & Legros 1936).

1936 – Cyprus: Soybeans are being cultivated; they are still under trial or established on an acclimatisation station (Sampson 1936).

1937 – Lebanon: Earliest document seen concerning soybeans in Lebanon (Salgues 1937).

1939 – Iran: Soybeans have been cultivated in Turkestan, and trials have been conducted, mostly out of curiosity, in Persia (Matagrin 1939, p. 57).

1948 May 14 – Israel is proclaimed a state. The land had formerly been part of Palestine.

1949 – Israel. Eliahu Navot, the soybean pioneer in Israel and the Middle East, leaves on a one-year trip around the world to study soybeans and soyfoods, with the encouragement of the Minister of Agriculture and Prof. Chaim Weizmann. He collects new varieties, lives with soybean farmers, and learns how to prepare a host of tasty dishes – which he introduces to Israel upon his return. Over the next 20 years of selfless work he earns the title “Father of the Soybean in Israel.”

1948-52 – Turkey: 2,000 tonnes (metric tons) of soybeans are produced on 2,000 ha in Turkey; yield: 860 kg/ha. Production in Turkey increases to 4,000 tonnes in 1955, 5,000 tonnes in 1956, 6,000 tonnes in 1963, 9,000 tonnes in 1968, 11,000 tonnes in 1968, then 12,000 tonnes in 1970 (FAO Production Yearbook 1958, 1967, 70). These are the earliest production or area statistics see for Turkey or the Middle East. Turkey has become the first major soybean producer in the Middle East.

1953 – Arabia: Significant shipments of Multi-Purpose Food have been sent to “Arabia” (Soybean Digest, March 1953).

1957 Nov. – Jordan: Soybeans are first cultivated in Jordan (Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan 1958).

1960 March – Israel: Soy flour is made commercially by the Etz-Hazaith Oil & Soap Industry, Israel. (Soya Bluebook 1960). This is the earliest known commercial soy product made in Israel or the Middle East.

1960 June – Iraq, and Oman: The earliest known soybean product is introduced, Multi-Purpose Food (Meals for Millions 1963).

1961 May – Lebanon: Soybeans are clearly being cultivated in Lebanon (Musharraf Ali 1962).

1966 – Iran: Active and continuous research on and cultivation of soybeans begins (Sahidi 1997).

1967 – Iran: 3,000* tonnes (metric tons) of soybeans are produced on 5,000* ha in Iran; yield: 620 kg/ha. Production in Iran increases to 11,000* tonnes in 1968, then 45,000* tons in 1969, 47,000F tonnes in 1970, and 50,000F tonnes in 1971. * = Unofficial figure. F = FAO estimate. Iran appears to have passed Turkey in 1969 to become the largest soybean producer in the Middle East) (FAO Production Yearbook 1971). But note: Amirshahi (1976) stated that in1967 Iran cultivated only 500 hectares, one-tenth the 5,000 unofficial figure from FAO (above).

1968 – Yemen: Soy products (Corn Soy Milk) first reported in Yemen (Inglett et al. 1968).

1970 – Saudi Arabia: Soybeans are first reported in Saudi Arabia. In the 1968-1970 period, 62 tonnes of soybeans were imported (Lee 1976).

1973 April 12 – Iraq: Soybeans are first cultivated in Iraq (Fadhil-Alzubaidi 1975).

1973 Oct. – Saudi Arabia: Soybeans are first cultivated in Saudi Arabia (Jowana 1975).

1974 April – Syria: Soybeans are first cultivated in Syria (Whigham 1975).

1975 – Bahrain: Imported $56,000 of soybeans and soybean products from the United States. This included 53 metric tons of soybean oil (worth $56,000). In 1977 Bahrain imported 350 metric tons of soybean meal (worth $90,000) from the USA (Piason 1978). This document contains the earliest date seen for soybean products in Bahrain.

1975 – Kuwait: Imported $2,615,000 of soybeans and soybean products from the United States. This included 8,960 metric tons of soybeans (worth $2,006,000), 224 metric tons of soybean oil (worth $81,000), and 2,588 metric tons of soybean meal (worth $528,000) from the USA (Piason 1978). This document contains the earliest date seen for soybeans or soybean products seen in Kuwait.

1975 – United Arab Emirates (UAE): Imported $83,000 of soybeans and soybean products from the United States. This included 68 metric tons of soybean oil (worth $83,000) (Piason 1978). This document contains the earliest date seen for soybean products in the UAE.

1978 – Qatar: Soy products (soy sauce) first imported (Wood 1982).

1979 Feb 1 – Iran: Beginning of the Islamic revolution. Ayatollah Khomeini arrives in Tehran, Iran, from exile in Paris, France by jet.

1979 – Iran: This year Iran produced 150,000 metric tons of soybeans on 70,000 acres; yield: 2,143 kg/ha (Shanmugasundaram 1982, p. 139).

1979 – Mamalak (Infant Formula), Manna (Food Supplement), and Complete (Complete Meal) and made and sold in Iran by Nutrition Dynamics International in Damghan.

1990 – Turkey: The leading soybean producers in the Middle East are now Turkey 162,000 tonnes, Iran 105,000 tonnes, and Iraq 2,000 tonnes (FAO Production Yearbook 1991).

1993 March – United Arab Emirates: Soybeans are first reported in the UAE. A company makes commercial soya powder from soybeans (Soyafoods, March 1993).

2005-2006 – Leading soybean producers in the Middle East: Iran 110,000 tonnes, Turkey 25,000 tonnes, Syria 5,000 tonnes.

2021 Dec. – We have never been able to find any evidence that soybeans have been cultivated in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, or Yemen.

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