U.S. soybean growers are losing market share in the all-important market because the race to grow higher-yielding crops has robbed their most prized nutrient: protein.
A decade ago, the United States supplied 38 of soybeans to China, compared to 34 percent from Brazil. Now, Brazil supplies 57 percent of Chinese imports compared to 31 from the United States, according to China’s General Administration of Customs.
The Brazilian soybean contains 37 percent protein on average that compares to 34.1 percent for U.S. crops in 2017 – a record low, according to the Soybean Export Council. Protein is paramount for Chinese importers, who mainly consider the cost of the soy meal – the price, and the amount of protein it contains.
Soybeans are by far the most valuable U.S. agricultural export, with $22.8 billion in shipments in 2016. The $41 billion U.S. soybean sector also faces rising competition from a growing number of synthetic and organic alternative feeds that provide more protein for less money.
U.S. farmers can still make more money producing higher volumes of lower-protein crops because low price difference. However, over the long term falling protein levels could have dire consequence for the U.S. industry as a whole – especially in China, which buys two-thirds of all soybeans traded in the world market.
CBOT wheat and corn futures strengthened on January 24. Soybean futures closed the session up supported by fundamental factors.