Illinois soybeans have found ready markets for decades. But it is work by the Illinois Soybean Association checkoff program and other state soybean groups to create new value-added markets in developing countries that become new sources of demand through the American Soybean Association’s World Initiative for Soy in Human Health.

Through the initiative, farmers can focus on promoting various soy products where demographics show population growth is increasing. The initiative’s mission is to develop trade and then long-term demand for U.S. soy in emerging markets to improve health, nutrition and food security in these markets.

Currently, the initiative has new projects starting in East Africa and also is expanding projects in Southeast Asia and Central America markets. The initiative also has great potential for more activities in West Africa.

I currently serve as initiative chairman, and I was fortunate to be in Ghana about a year ago to help launch the initiative’s U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded project to develop the poultry feed sector there.

Ghanaian people like to consume chicken, so there is opportunity to nurture and grow their egg market. Investment is expanding the layer business, and there are opportunities to improve the efficiency of the value chain.

We recognized that this poultry market cannot all be served by local soy production. So with funding from the soybean checkoff, we were able to start the groundwork in Ghana a couple of years before the $15 million, five-year USDA poultry feed project began there.

The initiative also is a trailblazer for U.S. trade in long-term Asian markets. In Bangladesh, for example, food demand has taken off among the more than 168 million people with a rapidly growing middle class.

Bangladesh purchased more than $500 million of U.S. soy between 2010 and 2015. Having achieved U.S. soybean farmer goals for market growth, the initiative has transitioned this program to the U.S. Soybean Export Council for further development.

Similarly in Pakistan, the initiative and council are now shifting their market development responsibilities and ensuring that adequate funding is available to continue to expand U.S. soy markets in the sixth-most populous country in the world. During the past 20 months, Pakistan has imported more than 393,000 metric tons of whole soybeans and soybean meal from the United States, for an estimated value of more than $140 million.

Meanwhile, El Salvador is an example of a new initiative-created customer. Initiative officials leveraged soybean checkoff dollars with USDA funds and partnered with a Guatemalan food company so Salvadoran officials could see how U.S. soy performs. As a result, the government ordered millions of serving bags of a U.S. soy-based beverage to feed their children.

The initiative is a program that Illinois soybean farmers helped to create more than 15 years ago and a program we remain committed to assisting.

Other Illinois soybean farmers who serve on the initiative committee include Stan Born, Roberta Simpson-Dolbeare, Jeff Lynn and Bill Wykes.

For more information about these and other activities, visit www.wishh.org.

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