The constant expansion of the crop in Mercosur countries has led them to exceed 50% of world production.

Soybean is the agricultural product with the highest commercial growth in the world. The needs of China and India, major consumers of the fruit of this oleaginous plant and its derivatives, make South America a strategic granary. Its profitability has encouraged the extension of the crop, especially in Brazil and Argentina, but also in Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay. Its expansion is behind recent deforestation in the Amazon and the Gran Chaco. After hydrocarbons and minerals, soybeans are the other major commodity in South America subject .

article / Daniel Andrés Llonch [English version].

Soybean has been cultivated in Asian civilizations for thousands of years; today its cultivation is also widespread in other parts of the world. It has become the most important oilseed grain for human consumption and animal feed. With great nutritional properties due to its high protein content, soybeans are marketed both in grain and in their oil and meal derivatives.

Of the eleven largest soybean producers, five are in South America: Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay. In 2016, these countries were the origin of 50.6% of world production, whose total reached 334.8 million tons, according to FAO's data . The first producer was the United States (34.9% of world production), followed by Brazil (28.7%) and Argentina (17.5%). India and China follow on the list, although what is significant about the latter country is its large consumption, which in 2016 forced it to import 83.2 million tons. A large part of these import needs are covered from South America. South American production is centered in the Mercosur nations (in addition to Brazil and Argentina, also Paraguay and Uruguay) and Bolivia.

Strong international demand and the high relative profitability of soybeans in recent years have fueled the expansion of soybean cultivation in the Mercosur region. The commodity price boom, in which soybeans also participated, led to profits that were directed to the acquisition of new land and equipment, allowing producers to increase their scale and efficiency.

In Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay, the area planted with soybean is the majority (it constitutes more than 50% of the total area planted with the five most important crops in each country). If to group we add Uruguay, where soybean has enjoyed a later expansion, we have that the production of these five South American countries has gone from 99 million tons in 2006 to 169.7 million in 2016, which is an increase of 71.2% (Brazil and Bolivia have almost doubled their production, somewhat surpassed by Paraguay and Uruguay, a country where it has tripled). In the decade, this South American area has gone from contributing 44.7% of world production to total 50.6%. In that time, the cultivated area increased from 40.6 million hectares to 58.4 million hectares.




As the second largest soybean producer in the world, Brazil reached in 2016 a production of 96.2 million tons (28.7% of the world total), with a crop area of 33.1 million hectares. Its production has known a constant increase, so that in the last decade the volume of the crop has increased by 83.5%. The jump has been especially B in the last four years, in which Brazil and Argentina have experienced the highest rate of increase of the crop, with an annual average of 936,000 and 878,000 hectares, respectively, from agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) department .

Argentina is the second largest producer in Mercosur, with 58.7 million tons (17.5% of world production) and a cultivated area of 19.5 million hectares. Soybean began to be planted in Argentina in the mid 1970s, and in less than 40 years it has made unprecedented progress. This crop occupies 63% of the country's areas planted with the five most important crops, compared to 28% of the area occupied by corn and wheat.

Paraguay, meanwhile, had a 2016 harvest of 9.1 million tons of soybeans (2.7% of world production). In recent seasons, soybean production has increased as more land is allocated for its cultivation. From agreement with the USDA, over the last two decades, land devoted to soybean cultivation has steadily increased by 6% annually. There are currently 3.3 million hectares of land in Paraguay dedicated to this activity, which constitutes 66% of the land used for the main crops.

In Bolivia, soybeans are grown mainly in the Santa Cruz region. According to the USDA, it accounts for 3% of the country's Gross Domestic Product, and employs 45,000 workers directly. In 2016, the country harvested 3.2 million tons (0.9% of world production), on an area of 1.3 million hectares.

Soybean plantations occupy more than 60 percent of the arable land in Uruguay, where soybean production has been increasing in recent years. In fact, it is the country where production has grown the most in relative terms in the last decade (67.7%), reaching 2.2 million tons in 2016 and a cultivated extension of 1.1 million hectares.



Increased demand

Soybean production represents a very important fraction of the agricultural GDP of South American nations. The five countries mentioned above, together with the United States, account for 85.6% of global production, making them the main suppliers of the growing world demand.

This production has experienced a progressive increase since its insertion in the market, with the exception of Uruguay, whose expansion of the product has been more recent. In the period between 1980 and 2005, for example, total world soybean demand expanded by 174.3 million tons, or 2.8 times. During this period, the growth rate of global demand accelerated from 3% per year in the 1980s to 5.6% per year in the last decade.

In all the South American countries mentioned above, soybean cultivation has been especially encouraged, due to the benefits it brings. Thus, in Brazil, the largest regional producer of the oleaginous grain, soybeans contribute revenues estimated at 10 billion dollars in exports, representing 14% of the total products marketed by the country. In Argentina, soybean cultivation went from representing 10.6% of agricultural production in 1980/81 to more than 50% in 2012/2013, generating significant economic benefits.

The outlook for growth in demand suggests that production will continue to rise. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that global production will exceed 500 million tons in 2050, double the volume harvested in 2010. Much of this demand will have to be met from South America.

More blog entries

Publicador de contenidos

Carrera por los recursos espaciales: de la minería al control de rutas

▲ proposal of lunar base for obtaining helium, taken from [Christopher Barnatt]. GLOBAL AFFAIRS JOURNAL / Emili J. Blasco [8-page document.... ReadmoreAboutRace for space resources: from mining to route control "

Conexión eléctrica entre Ceuta y la Península: un asunto de seguridad energética y medioambiental

The routeing of a submarine cable for power transmission to Spain's place has been stalled since 2016 The project of electrical interconnection between Ceuta and the Peninsula, of the network Eléctrica... ReadmoreAboutElectrical interconnection between Ceuta and the Peninsula: a matter of energy and environmental security "

Ecuador desaprovecha su salida de la OPEP y pierde producción petrolera

The country left the cartel in order to expand its pumping, but the Covid-19 crisis has cut extraction volumes by 10.8%. Construction of a variant of the pipeline that crosses the... ReadmoreAboutEcuador misses out on OPEC exit and loses oil production "

Argentina ve en Vaca Muerta una tabla de salvación, pero falta más capital para su desarrollo

The hydrocarbon field is the central axis of the Gas 2020-2023 Plan of President Alberto Fernández, which subsidizes part of the investment Activity of YPF, Argentina's state-owned oil and gas... ReadmoreAboutArgentina sees Vaca Muerta as a lifeline, but more capital is needed for its development "

El gas natural licuado cambia el juego en el hemisferio americano

U.S. LNG sales to its neighbors and exports from Latin American and Caribbean countries to Europe and Asia open new perspectives Not to depend on gas pipelines, but to be able to buy or sell... ReadmoreAboutLiquefied natural gas is a game changer in the American hemisphere "

Could Spain partner up with Morocco in the field of solar energy?

The two countries are greatly exposed to solar radiation and they already share electricity interconnectors Spain was an early developer of solar energy, but it didn't keep the pace with the... ReadmoreAboutCould Spain partner up with Morocco in the field of solar energy? "

Surinam sigue a Guyana en el ‘milagro’ petrolero

The finding of a "significant" amount of oil in off-shore wells places the former Dutch colony in the footsteps of neighboring Guyana. The intuition has proved to be right and the... ReadmoreAboutSuriname follows Guyana in the oil 'miracle' "

Climate Refugees will raise, nations should find the way for shelter them

▲ Flood rescue in the Afghan village of Jalalabad, in 2010 [NATO]. ESSAY / Alejandro J. Alfonso In December of 2019, Madrid hosted the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP25,... ReadmoreAboutClimate Refugees will raise, nations should find the way for shelter them "

La nueva guerra de precios petroleros

March and April 2020 will be remembered in the oil industry as the months in which the perfect storm occurred: a drop of more than 20% in global demand at the same time that the oil industry... ReadmoreAboutThe new oil price war "

Was the Madrid COP25 useful?

The UN Conference did little to increase international commitment to climate change action, but did at least boost the assertiveness of the EU In recent years, the temperature of the Earth has... ReadmoreAboutWas the Madrid COP25 useful? "

La minería ilegal, la otra destrucción de la Amazonía

Gold mining and oil transport pollute Amazonian rivers It is not only the fires that are negatively affecting the Amazon, which is undergoing an accelerated reduction of... ReadmoreAboutIllegal mining, the other destruction of the Amazon "

Centroamérica aprovecha sus volcanes para generación eléctrica

Geothermal energy already accounts for 7.5% of the Central American electricity mix, with installed capacity still far below the estimated potential. Volcanic activity and tectonic movement... ReadmoreAboutCentral America harnesses its volcanoes for power generation "

Jordan River Basin: Hydropolitics as an arena for regional cooperation

▲Satellite imagery of the Jordan River [NASA]. ANALYSIS / Marina Díaz Escudero Water is an essential natural resource, not only for individual survival on Earth, but also for nation-states... Read moreAboutJordan River Basin: Hydropolitics as an arena for regional cooperation "

Qué hará Bolivia con su gas natural cuando Brasil y Argentina ya no lo necesiten

The upcoming gas self-sufficiency of its two major gas-buying neighbors forces the Bolivian government to seek alternative markets Yacimientos Pretrolíferos Fiscales gas plant in... ReadmoreAboutWhat Bolivia will do with its natural gas when Brazil and Argentina no longer need it "

Blood diamonds keep going through Antwerp

The Belgian city, the world's capital of diamonds, has applied more regulations, sanctions and scrutiny on the industry, but still there are some bad practices ▲ The diamond industry has... ReadmoreAboutBlood diamonds keep going through Antwerp "

Cumbre del Clima 2018, un paso hacia adelante

The meeting COP24 made progress in regulating the Paris agreement , but "carbon markets" remained blocked. Mobilizations in favor of governments taking more drastic measures... ReadmoreAboutClimate Summit 2018, a step forward "

La nueva Guyana petrolera y su proyección internacional

One of the poorest countries in the Americas may become the world's largest oil producer per capita, disrupting the relationship with its neighbors. The promising oil discoveries... ReadmoreAboutThe new oil Guyana and its international projection "

Acuífero Guaraní: mejor que otros, pero pervivencia no asegurada

Geopolitical misgivings about perceived foreign interests should not distract beneficiary countries from implementing sustainable use. The Guarani Aquifer has given rise to a... ReadmoreAboutAquifer Guarani: better than others, but survival not assured "

El 'boom' de la quinoa

Global interest in this fashionable grain has brought additional income to Andean communities. The localization of quinoa production, especially in Peru and Bolivia (together they account for... ReadmoreAboutThe quinoa boom "

Impulso a la conexión gasística de los países de la Iniciativa de los Tres Mares

Poland-Germany struggle for influence in the European region between the Baltic, the Adriatic and the Black Sea The latest summit of the Three Seas Initiative (TMI) was attended by the... ReadmoreAboutBoosting the gas connection of the Three Seas Initiative countries "