Soya imports from Brazil up despite price hike

Ripe soybeans, ready for harvesting.
© Getty Images/iStockphoto
Despite a 39-percent price increase last year, the Netherlands imported 2 percent more soybeans from Brazil than in 2020. With a total weight of 2.4 billion kilograms, Brazil was the largest supplier of soybeans to the Netherlands. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports this on the basis of newly released figures.

Measured in euros, soya imports from Brazil in 2021 are the largest ever recorded. This is related to the high price combined with a large import volume. The value stood at 1.1 billion euros, surpassing the 1 billion mark for the first time. The price of soya rose for various reasons, including dry weather in Brazil and increased demand from China.

Soybean imports from Brazil: value and weight
 Import value in euros ( billion)Import weight in kg ( billion)

Over 3/4 processed in the Netherlands

The soybean is a legume that is usually dried and peeled, after which it is industrially processed into soybean oil (slightly less than one-fifth) and soybean meal (almost four-fifths). A small proportion consists of hulls and lost production. Soybean oil is primarily an edible and serves as an ingredient in, for example, margarine, biscuits, soups and sauces. The protein-richt soybean meal is mainly used as feed for chickens, pigs and cows. The hulls, which are low-protein, are sometimes blended with the feed.
Around a quarter of all soybeans imported by the Netherlands is directly re-exported to other countries for processing. Over three quarters are processed within the Netherlands, mainly by the feed industry; to a lesser extent by the food industry and for non-food production.
Ultimately, most of the imported soybeans end up abroad in one way or another: as beans, as intermediate products or as finished products. This also includes the indirect contribution to exports of meat, dairy and eggs that comes from feeding animals with soya.

Brazil largest soya supplier

Brazil and the United States have always been the largest suppliers of soybeans to the Netherlands, in alternating position. Brazil has been the main supplier again since 2019. In 2021, Brazil supplied 58 percent of all Dutch soybean imports. This was still 52 percent in 2020. The share held by the US declined from 35 to 30 percent over the same period.
Total Dutch soybean imports decreased by 8 percent from 4.5 billion to 4.2 billion kg in 2021. Conversely, the import value increased by 22 percent, from 1.5 billion to 1.9 billion euros.

Shares in Dutch import weight of soya held by Brazil and the United States
 Brazil (%)US (%)

Three quarters of Brazilian soya exports go to China

The Netherlands is the largest importer of soya in the EU, followed by Spain. Both the Netherlands and Spain imported about the same volume from Brazil in 2021. In percentage terms, Spain is more oriented towards Brazil compared to the Netherlands; it imports less soya from the United States. Germany imports the soya mainly from the Netherlands; relatively little is imported directed from Brazil.
However, all EU imports of soya combined pale in comparison to China’s soya imports. In 2020, China accounted for 65 percent of total soya imports around the world and even 76 percent of all soya exported by Brazil. Chinese soya imports from Brazil that year stood at over 64 billion kilograms, i.e. 27 times the weight imported by the Netherlands.
In 2020, the Netherlands was the third largest soybean importer worldwide after China and Argentina. It was also the third largest importer of soybeans from Brazil (after China and Thailand).

Largest soya importers in the EU, 2021
 Brazil (bn kg)United States (bn kg)Other countries (bn kg)
Other EU countries0.50.31.0
Source: CBS, Eurostat