Pakistan is continuing its transformation into a significant soyabean importer in the 2017/18 season, with demand for protein meal from its feed sector iexpected to drive imports to a record 2M tonnes, a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) report finds.

Published on 3 August, the USDA GAIN report said Pakistan’s total oilseed imports were set to exceed edible oil imports for the first time in history as a new tariff structure implemented a few years ago continued to favour soyabeans over soya meal.

Soyabean imports reached a record 1.3M tonnes in the first eight months of the 2017/18 season, said the USDA, adding that 61% or 801,224 tonnes originated from the USA.

The import total was expected to reach 2M tonnes by the end of the season and grow further to 2.5M tonnes in 2018/19.

While soyabean imports grew, soyabean meal imports into Pakistan had crashed to just 100 tonnes in 2017/18 from 385,000 tonnes in the previous year as importers continued to respond to the more favourable tariffs.

Based on Pakistan government data, soyabean oil imports had fallen 11% from the previous year, while palm oil imports had surged by 7%.

Palm oil – which dominated the imported vegetable oil market – was commonly blended with other oils and sold as cooking oil, but a significant amount of soyabean and canola oil would also augment the overall edible oil availability in Pakistan, the USDA noted.

More affluent consumers in the country were gradually swapping palm-based hydrogenated oils to oilseed-based soft oils.

Rapeseed and sunflower seed imports were keeping pace to reach the USDA’s projections of 1.1M tonnes and 100,000 tonnes, respectively.