Energy and food together enable soybean demand growth

December 5, 2023

This is an exciting time for U.S. soybean exports. That’s the assessment of Mac Marshall, vice president of market intelligence for the United Soybean Board, who says shifts domestically have an impact on export programs.

“We’ve got this wave of [soybean] crush expansion coming online in the United States, which I think has been well documented, but the importance of it can really not be overstated,” said Marshall, in an interview with the South Dakota Soybean Network.

Marshall cited encouraging market signals and good things happening in soybean processing. Specifically, he brought up the opening of a crush plant in North Dakota which means good things for producers, especially those near the new plant. Likewise, South Dakota producers are anticipating additional crush capacity from a new plant near Mitchell which is slated to be operational in two years.

“When I think about meal demand and I think about our export program, those are certainly very, very encouraging signs, because last year we actually set a volume record for soybean meal exports, over 13.3 million metric tons,” said Marshall, “far surpassing prior records; I think it was about 12-and-a-half million.”

Increased crush capacity brings with it a resulting expectation of increased soybean meal production which, according to Marshall, will supply expected vigorous export demand. “And you’re seeing that carry forward into this present marketing year as well, we of course had the export sales data come out showing significant year-on-year growth both in our meal exports but also in our whole bean exports. Even with some of the logistical troubles with the Mississippi [River] and everything, we still exported, I think, nearly 13 million tons this far,” he said, “a substantial increase over this time last year as well as relative to our five-year average.”

Marshall predicts demand growth for U.S.-produced whole soybeans as well as soybean meal. That, he said, will be amplified by developing markets’ expanding aquaculture and animal agriculture production capabilities.

“It’s all fantastic signals that show that this is really coming together congruently, and showing, I think, that the versatility of the soybean enables the markets for energy and food to kind of work together, where you’ve got energy and food kind of enabling each other,” said Marshall, “all through that little bean.”