South Africa has exported its first bulk shipment of soyabeans to China, the South African Cereals and Oilseeds Trade Association (SACOTA) reported.

Heading for the Chinese port of Guangzhou, the shipment was arranged by global agribusiness giant Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC) – a member of SACOTA – loaded at Transnet Port Terminal Agriport, Durban, on 15 October.

SACOTA said the exports would be followed by two more shipments, one being loaded at the time of the 31 October report.

“This shipment is a milestone in South Africa’s growing soyabean export sector. It is a testament to the possibilities of growing the cereal and oilseed sector through successful collaboration between the government and private sector,” Juan-Pierre Kotzé, research and project manager at SACOTA said.

China is the biggest consumer and importer of soyabeans in the world with consumption estimated at a record 116M tonnes in the 2023/24 marketing year.

According to a March report by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), China is expected to produce a record soyabean crop of 19.8M tonnes in the coming season although it will still need to import 97M tonnes of soyabeans.

“Accessing the Chinese market is therefore an important step for the South African soyabean industry, allowing South Africa to sell any surplus stock,” Kotzé added.

The shipment followed the signing of a soyabean export protocol between South Africa and China by South Africa’s Minister of Agriculture Thoko Didiza and her Chinese counterpart last June.

Establishing phytosanitary requirements for the export of South African soyabeans to China, the protocol requires tests to be conducted and pest control measures to be introduced, as well as registration of exporters and storage facilities and terminals to be set up.

SACOTA said it was also working with the South African government’s Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) and the industry to open up markets in Indonesia and Egypt to soyabean exports from South Africa.

Over the past nine years, South African soyabean production has increased on average by 18% year-on-year, while domestic demand has grown by 8%, the association said.

Due to increased production, South Africa started producing surplus stock in the 2021/22 season and SACOTA member ETG exported its first soyabean shipment to Malaysia in 2022/23, SACOTA said.

The growth in production is expected to continue in the next few years, although at a reduced rate, according to the association.