Soybean imports from Brazil up by 40 percent

In the first six months of 2020, the Netherlands imported 1.6 billion kg of soybeans from Brazil. This is 40 percent more than in the first half of 2019. At the same time, soybean imports from the United States declined by 19 percent relative to 2019. This is reported by Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

The soybean is a legume that is usually dried and peeled, after which it is industrially processed into soy oil and meal. The oil is used to make margarine, biscuits and sauces. The protein-rich soybean meal is mainly used as forage for poultry, pigs and cows.

In the first half of 2020, total soybean imports amounted to 2.4 billion kg, equivalent to an import value of 811 million euros. Relative to the first half of 2019, the total import volume was up by 14 percent and the total import value by 17 percent.

Soybean imports from Brazil, first six months
JaarSoybean imports (bn kg)

Brazil largest soybean supplier for the Netherlands

In 2019, Brazil again became the largest supplier of soybeans for the Netherlands, mainly due to a sharp decrease in imports from the United States. Between 2014 and 2019, the US was the largest supplier and before this period it was Brazil. In the entire year of 2019, 44 percent of all imported soybeans came from Brazil, a share nearly twice as high as in 2018 (23 percent).

During the first six months of 2020, imports from Brazil even accounted for 65 percent. However, this is partially related to seasonal effects since imports from Brazil are more frequent in the first half than imports from the US.

Together, Brazil and the US were good for 82 percent of Dutch soybean imports last year. The remaining 18 percent came from other countries.

Origin of Dutch soybean imports, full years
JaarBrazil (bn kg)United States (bn kg)Other countries (bn kg)Total (bn kg)

The Netherlands is the EU’s largest soybean importer

Of all EU countries, the Netherlands is the largest importer of soybeans and it is also the largest EU importer from Brazil and the United States. Other large soybean importers are Spain and Germany. Germany’s high ranking is partly due to substantial imports from the Netherlands. This concerns soy imported by the Netherlands and subsequently re-exported to Germany without undergoing industrial processing.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the Netherlands is the fourth largest importer of soybeans worldwide. The vast bulk of soybean imports is by China (88.0 billion kg in 2018), followed by Argentina (6.4 billion), Mexico (5.2 billion) and the Netherlands (4.3 billion). Around three-quarters of Brazilian exports are destined for China.

EU soybean imports by origin, first half of 2020
 Brazil (bn kg)United States (bn kg)Other non-EU (bn kg)EU (bn kg)
Other EU countries0.
Source: CBS, Eurostat

Bulk of soy imported for processing

Around one-quarter of all soybeans imported by the Netherlands are directly re-exported to other countries. The bulk is processed by Dutch factories into soybean meal, mainly as animal feed, or into soy oil, mainly destined for human consumption. Soy products are not only destined for the domestic market but are also exported in the form of Dutch-manufactured products. In addition, the Netherlands also imports soybean meal, which is re-exported directly.

In the first half of 2020, total soybean imports had a value of 1.3 billion euros. Approximately 64 percent originated from Brazil (in addition to soybeans, also large volumes of soybean meal) and 18 percent from the United States (almost only soybeans).

In the first half of 2020, total soybean exports amounted to 1 billion euros. The main destinations are Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom. This is true for both domestic exports and re-exports by the Netherlands.

Soy import and export value, first half of 2020
 Soybeans (bn euros)Soybean meal (bn euros)Soy oil (bn euros)
Domestic exports00.250.19