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Soybean dominates world oilseed production. The four major producers (United States, Brazil, China and Argentina) account for 90 to 95 per cent of total world production (in mid 1980s, totalled 95 million metric tonnes).

Canada and Mexico also produce large quantities of soybean – South America, Paraguay and Columbia produce in excess of 100,000 tonnes annually. Egypt and Zimbabwe are the major African producers, while Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union are major European producers. Asian countries (other than China) produce more than 100,000 tonnes annually and include India, Indonesia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea and Thailand.

The United States has more than a 90 per cent share of soybean exports. Brazil and Argentina are ranked second and third respectively.

Main importers are the European Economic Community, Japan, Spain and Eastern Europe.


  • Asians have developed a large variety of foods from soybean that are classified as “fermented” or “non-fermented”
    • fermented products include: soy sauce, miso (fermented soybean paste), sufu (soybean cheese that originated in China), tempeh (a fermented soybean cake originating in Indonesia) and natto (a Japanese food made from fermented whole soybean)
    • non-fermented products: the principal one is tofu, a soy milk curd, used mostly in Japan and China
  • soybean is an indispensable part of the diet of many Asian people as it has the most ideal amino acid balance of all vegetable proteins
  • soybean oil is one of the world’s major food fats and is moderate in polyunsaturated fat – it’s used in the manufacture of margarine, shortening, salad oil, cooking oil, paints, varnish, printing ink, soap, synthetics and rubber substitutes
  • soy flour and soy protein are increasingly being used in a wide range of food products in western diets
  • soybean meal produced after crushing contains up to 45 per cent protein and is a main feed ingredient in feed rations for poultry, pork and dairy