Cultivated from Northern America to Southern Asia and with multiple uses in nutrition, fodder, and industrial processes while serving as income for thousands of farmers but causing deforestation and sometimes biodiversity losses, soybean is one of the most significant crops on the planet. With millions of hectares planted with this crop and thousands of farms engaged in production, processing and logistics, soybean-producing nations have a big impact on the world economy. Which are the Top 5 largest soybean-producing countries in the world?
The soybean (Glycine max), also known as soya bean, is an annual legume grown for its edible seed. It is the major bean in terms of economic importance because it provides ingredients for numerous chemical products and vegetable protein for millions of human beings as well as cattle worldwide.
The cultivation of soybeans is frequently linked to large-scale agriculture which can have negative effects on the environment, including habitat degradation and deforestation. However, for small-scale farmers, soybeans can be an essential means of income and food security.
What is soybean used for?
Almost 77% of the soy grown worldwide is used to feed cattle that is bred for dairy and meat products. The remainder is used among vegetable oil producers and other industries, as well as biofuels Only 7% of soy is specifically used to make products for human consumption including tofu and soy milk.
Soybean is one of the richest and most affordable sources of protein. Researchers have found that its seed has a 18%-22% oil content and 38%-42% protein and it is, therefore, an ideal source of protein for people with diabetes as it contains no starch (polysaccharide).
Soybean and environmental issues
In some of the most important ecosystems around the globe, such as Brazil’s Amazon and the Cerrado (the planet’s largest biodiversity-rich savanna), soy growth is a significant direct contributor to the degradation of forests and conversion.
Statistics suggest that the expansion of soybean fields was responsible for 28.3% of all deforestation in the Cerrado in 2020 and whereas 46% of the Amazon’s native vegetation is legally protected, only 3% of the Cerrado’s enjoys the same protection.
Some communities in Brazil (both local and indigenous) are exposed to harmful pesticides from airborne and ground spraying over soy crops close to their dwellings, schools, and workplaces. This leads to health issues such as increased heart rate, nausea, migraines, and dizziness.
Soybean production by country
South American nations contribute over 51% of the world’s soybean production while only five countries in the world generate more than 90% of the world’s soybeans. Which ones? Read on to find out.
It is also of note that the five biggest European soybean producers in 2021, including the European region of Russia, accounted for 86% of the continent’s total soybean production.
Harvest losses can significantly affect the global supply of soybeans due to there being a geographic concentration of production in just a few areas. Moreover, soybean is extremely susceptible to hot and dry conditions throughout the reproductive phase of growth in the summer which can also affect production.
Top soybean-producing nations globally over the last 10 years
Which country produces the most soybeans?
Brazil has surpassed the United States in terms of soybean production during the past few years. The US, central Brazil, and southeast South America combined, generate over 80% of the globe’s soybeans supplies.
For the marketing year 2022–2023, Brazil is expected to produce an all-time high of 154.0 million Mt of soybeans. This stood at 130.50 MT in 2021-2022 when the country became the largest soybean producer, surpassing the US.
2. United States
In 2020-2021, the US produced 114.75 Mt of soybean. Over 121 Mt were registered in 2021–2022 and for 2022–2023 the production is expected to decrease to 116.38 Mt.
Estimates for the country’s soybean production for the marketing year 2022–2023 are 27.0 million Mt – a 38% drop from last year. In 2021-2022, the country produced nearly 44.90 Mt of soybeans, while the year before this was 46.20 Mt. Due to the dry and hot weather during March 2023, the yield has decreased month on month because it was too late for the soybean crop to take advantage of the rains that fell in the second half of March.
Soybean production in China is expected to hit 20,28 Mt in 2022/2023 whereas last year this figure was 16.4 Mt, a drop of nearly 3 Mt from 2020-2021 (19.6 Mt) but, as the latest data shows, production has registered a considerable increase. Even though China produces a lot of soybeans, it is one of the nations that imports a large amount of soybeans to satisfy domestic demand.
Soybean production in India is expected to reach 12 Mt, nearly as much as in the year before (11.89 Mt), and over 1.5 million Mt more than in 2020-2021 when production was 10.45 Mt.
Due to numerous uses in food, livestock feed, and biofuels, soybeans have become a crucial crop for the global agricultural sector. The leading soybean-producing nations, such as Brazil, the United States, and Argentina, are essential in supplying the rising global demand for soybeans. The production of this vital crop will continue to be a key contributor to the agriculture sector. Sustainable farming methods will be crucial for long-term success because, as with any agricultural crop, productivity can be impacted by problems such as weather, pests, and diseases.