In 2018, U.S. soybeans and soybean farmers have taken center stage in international trade. While the U.S. – China trade dispute is big news, the U.S. Soy industry has always worked to build and diversify multiple markets around the world.

The Americas region, made up of Latin America, the Caribbean basin, and Canada, has long been a key market for U.S. Soy. Canada and Mexico in particular took their turn in the trade spotlight this year as the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was renegotiated and replaced by the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA).

647 million people live in the Americas region, and it represents 9 percent of the world gross domestic product (GDP). Projected GDP growth is 2.0 percent in 2018 and 2.6 percent in 2019.

Mexico, Canada, and Colombia are some of the largest markets for U.S. Soy products. With high demand in this region, the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) is working to establish valuable trade partnerships for U.S. preference, U.S. differentiation, and demand building to leverage the large U.S. market share.

“This region is the largest U.S. export market for soybean meal, soybean oil, and soy ingredients,” says Kevin Roepke, who serves as USSEC’s Regional Director – Americas. “In the 2016/17 marketing year, the Americas accounted for 58 percent of total U.S. soybean meal exports, 61 percent of total U.S. soybean oil exports, and it is also the third largest market for U.S. soybeans, with 8 percent of total U.S. soybean exports.

“Sustainability is increasingly deemed a product differentiator in this region,” he states.

And the market in the Americas continues to grow for whole beans, meal, and oil. Given its economic growth, the region will continue to increase demand in meat, poultry meat, and eggs, in addition to production growth, continuing to be dependent on imports of grains and oil seeds.

After contracting in 2017, the region is beginning an economic recovery.

Here’s a closer look at some specific markets.


Mexico, with a population of 138 million, boasts a $1.046 trillion total GDP, 1.98 percent of the world GDP. This country is a key growth market for U.S. Soy and has an increased demand for meat, poultry meat, and eggs due to population and economic growth.

Roepke says Mexico will continue to be dependent on imports of grains (30 percent) and oil seeds (more than 90 percent). The U.S. enjoys a 90 percent market share on whole soybeans and 95 percent for soybean meal.

The world’s fifth largest feed market is currently undergoing a crush capacity expansion, which will lead to more soybean imports and fewer imports of soybean meal and soybean oil. The country is home to Latin America’s third and fourth largest poultry producers and has strong integration with U.S. suppliers, animal protein producers, and railroads.

Mexico is traditionally a very strong soybean meal market for the U.S. and has ranked first or second for decades. Increased local soybean crush will supply growing meal and oil markets, increasing imports of U.S. whole soybeans and reducing U.S. meal and oil exports.

The country’s thriving aquaculture industry also continues to grow, setting expectations for further demand of soybean meal from the U.S. and from U.S. crushed soybeans. A 12-month demonstration project at La Granja Tilapia Farm brought in-pond raceway technology (IPRS) to Campeche, Mexico, marking the debut of IPRS in Latin America, where pond aquaculture of tilapia and shrimp is expanding for a demanding domestic and export market.

The demonstration was a notable success, producing 50 percent more yield, while using less water, electricity, and labor. The company plans to build raceways in four more ponds in order to supply the national market year-round with fresh product. Three additional Mexican fish producers receiving technical support from USSEC are conducting feasibility studies and fish producers are interested in Honduras, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Guatemala as well.

Mexico also has a growing demand for pet food with production is higher than that of aquaculture feed production.

“Eye-opening” is the word most used by grower leaders and other U.S. Soy family participants for the annual Aquaculture Educational Opportunity (AEO) event held in Campeche, Mexico, January 16-18, 2018. The International Soy in Aquaculture team gathered from around the world to provide updates of aquaculture production in their regions, challenges to industry growth, and opportunities to increase the use of U.S. Soy in global aquaculture feeds.


With a population of 49 million people and a GDP of $397 billion USD, Colombia is experiencing a “storybook economic recovery,” says Roepke. From a country that was once seen as one of the most dangerous places in the world, this country shows “super growth potential,” he continues. Like Mexico, Colombia is viewed as a key growth market for U.S. Soy.

The U.S.–Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA), which took effect in 2012, eliminated import tariffs for U.S soybeans and soybean meal with a tariff-rate quota (TRQ) for soybean oil. USSEC leveraged the CTPA to promote and build preference for the quality attributes of U.S. soybeans in that market.

In FY 2017, Colombia grew to be the 12th largest market for U.S. soybeans, the third largest for soybean meal, and the fifth largest for soybean oil. Collectively, U.S. Soy exports to Colombia in 2016/17 were more than 10 times the amount shipped before the CTPA, at 1.6 million metric tons (MMT) valued at approximately $644.2 million.

As a result, U.S. soybean exports to Colombia have grown significantly and the trend is expected to continue as Colombian importers enjoy cost advantages from importing U.S. soybeans versus those from Argentina and Brazil. Port access to both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans makes on-time delivery within houfrom the U.S. an added advantage.

Poultry is the country’s meat of choice, with consumption at 32.8 kilograms (kg) per capita. A modern and well-managed pork checkoff, however, has led to a near doubling in per capita consumption from just slightly over 4 kg per person to over 9.3 kg per person since 2010.

The pet food industry is also a high margin growth market in Colombia.

Additionally, Colombia receives the most U.S. Soy Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP) certificates in the Americas.

The U.S. market share of Colombia’s soybean imports has risen from 49 percent in FY 2011 to essentially 100 percent in FY 2017. The U.S. also holds about 70 percent of the soybean meal market and 33 percent of vegetable oil imports.


The United States’ neighbor to the north is a mature but stable and important market for U.S. Soy, representing the fourth largest feed market and sixth largest soybean oil market in the Americas region.

Canada is also the largest market for U.S. biodiesel and boasts strong and highly sophisticated poultry and swine industries.

It is a growing soybean producer and exporter, but the country’s still-deficient crush capacity ensures continuing demand for U.S. Soy products.


Meanwhile, in Peru, U.S. Soy’s methodical approach has led to the return of soybean oil sales to that country. In the 17/18 marketing year, Peru has imported 93,000 MT of soybean oil from the U.S., including a one-time 30,000 MT sale on May 3, worth an estimated $23 million. Prior to that, Peru had not imported any soybean oil from the United States since the 2015/2016 marketing year.

USSEC has recently targeted various soybean oil importers in Peru and prioritized this highly competitive market for U.S. Soy promotion. USSEC invited the company responsible for the uptick in U.S. imports to a regional soybean oil risk management conference in Cartagena, Colombia, held in May. The marketing conference brought together U.S. grower leaders, market analysts, and industry experts from around the Americas region to learn about and discuss soybean oil procurement strategies from the United States.

Peru represents one of the largest import markets for soybean oil in the Americas. Typically seen as the largest destination for U.S. soybean oil, Mexico by comparison, imports roughly half as much total volume of soybean oil as Peru. Over the past decade, Peru has outpaced Mexico in terms of soybean oil imports; as a result, USSEC has conducted more one-on-one and targeted marketing for the country’s oil importers and retailers. The recent increase in U.S. soy exports to Peru demonstrates the importance of relationship building.

U.S. Soy’s Commitment

Perhaps nothing indicates the importance of the Americas region as much as the presence of USSEC’s agricultural buyers’ conference this past July when regional feed industry thought leaders, executives, and government officials met in Cartagena, Colombia.

The event was sponsored and coordinated by USSEC, with special support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS). The presence of the entire USSEC board of directors was a symbolic and passionate gesture of the U.S. Soy industry’s dedication and commitment to the region.

The event, which brought together roughly 150 of the region’s most distinguished industry titans, provided a forum for buyers and sellers to engage in commerce. It was capped off by a round-robin style of speed meetings where importer and suppliers are provided with a translator to network and build relationships.

Networking was key to this event, says Todd Gibson, a soybean grower from Norborne, Missouri and a director for USSEC.

“In addition to providing executives with relevant knowledge for decision making,” says Gibson, “we also wanted to ensure that importers had plenty of opportunities to buy U.S. Soy products at any given moment.

Roepke agrees. “Above all, we wanted to convey the message that not only do you receive the most value with U.S. Soy; right now, you’re also getting a tremendous bargain.”

Results have proved to be phenomenal, as Mexico purchased almost 400,000 metric tons (MT) of soybean meal and over 500,000 MT of soybeans in the weeks following, as confirmed by USDA reports.

“Moreover, ‘battleground countries’ – so named for their competitiveness, due to proximity and freight spreads – realized the value and seized the opportunity of having suppliers in front of them and snatched up other U.S. Soy products as a result of the conference—namely Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and even Venezuela. The further south the U.S. can supply into the Americas, the better, as competition gets fierce in a hurry, ” states Roepke.

“I can’t think of a better time or a better forum to reinforce the message that the U.S. Soy industry is committed to the success of these buyers than right here.”