SA can grow 2 million tons of soya beans by 2020

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South Africa’s Protein Research Foundation (PRF), which researches and promotes the local production and processing of plant-based proteins, believes the country could, and should, be producing 2 million tons of soya beans annually by 2020.


According to PRF chairperson Gerhard Scholtemeijer there has been a steady increase in the area planted to soya beans during the past five years. Over the 2007/08 summer, a mere 165 400ha was planted to this crop. This is a far cry from the PRF’s latest estimate, which has soya bean farmers planting SA’s highest ever total area for the 2011/12 summer – about 480 000ha.

“The snowball for local soya bean production is rolling and unlikely to stop,” Scholtemeijer told Farmer’s Weekly. “Our commercial grain farmers are increasingly involved in conservation agriculture practices, such as no-till and crop rotation. Worldwide, soya beans are being used in around 90% of crop rotation with commercial maize, and more of our maize farmers are doing the same.”

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The PRF pointed out that an added advantage of increased local soya bean production is that it is reducing SA’s dependence on imported protein sources for use in animal feed. Over the past five years, the country has reportedly been importing a million tons of plant protein annually, mainly from Argentina, of which around 90% is made up of soya oilcake.

Willem Stander, procurement executive for Astral Foods’ feeds division, said the annual requirement of the SA animal feed industry is about 180 000 tons of full fat soya and 1,4 million tons of soya oilcake. The local supplies of soya oilcake represent 10% to 15% of this total requirement. Stander added that the estimated local production capacity for full fat soya is around 300 000t/year, or 60% of capacity utilisation.

“The edible oils industry foresees massive increases in soya bean crushing capacity that will reduce our reliance on imported soya oilcake and oil,” said Stander. Farmer’s Weekly recently reported that the projected crushing capacity of oilseed plants will reach 15 million tons midway throught this decade.

The PRF’s Scholtemeijer said that it is unlikely that an increase in national soya bean production will undermine national maize yields, because the benefits of rotating maize with soya beans will likely create significant increases in maize yield/ha to offset reduced plantings. The Crop Estimates Committee has not yet released its national soya bean production estimates for the 2011/12 summer.