December 02, 2023

Packing for the pyramids

The relationship between Illinois soybean farmers and Egyptian consumers becomes increasingly opportunistic when you have a growing population of people and a growing demand for protein.

The citizens of Egypt are increasing their protein intake, and Illinois soy-fed poultry and aquaculture markets are a way to do that efficiently.

In January, Illinois soybean farmers, members of the Illinois Soybean Association staff and board — myself included — boarded a plane to embark on a trade mission to Egypt, where we experienced firsthand the country’s increasing demand and preference for soy from Illinois.

One of the places we toured was WorldFish, a world-class nonprofit research and innovation organization dedicated to increasing aquaculture production in developing countries like Egypt.

The day we visited, WorldFish was completing its 49th Aquaculture Training Program. This training program is funded by the ISA checkoff program and the U.S. Soybean Export Council through a Soy Excellence Center endeavor.

A Soy Excellence Center is a soy-protein innovation hub established by USSEC to grow soy-fed global markets. The Egypt SEC was established in 2019.

It was a natural home for USSEC and ISA checkoff fund investment since Egypt is the third largest soybean export market for U.S. soybeans, and the Mid-East/North Africa region shows 16% growth and climbing.

At WorldFish, they host SEC training classes where Egyptian farmers and protein industry professionals learn about more efficient production methods and the role soy plays in driving improvements through their entire value chain.

As these protein professionals see productivity increases through soy-fed rations, they can reduce costs. This supports the growth and expansion of in-country production that provides more Egyptians a safe and affordable protein source.

Our visit to WorldFish taught us that the aquaculture industry is vital to supplying safe fish for Egyptian consumers because it provides 65% of Egypt’s fish for consumption while helping affordably meet the protein needs of its growing population.

In Egypt, Nile Tilapia are 75% of the total fish farmed. Tilapia production provides one dish per week for every Egyptian.

It was a week well spent with our No. 3 customer in planning the future of the growing trade relationship between Illinois soybean farmers and Egypt.

Illinois has already made a lasting impression on the lives of protein-consuming Egyptians. Through investments already made, demand for Illinois soy-fed protein products like fish and chicken are being met.

While the demand for Illinois soybeans in Egypt grows stronger, growing global markets come with their fair share of challenges.

While Egypt currently navigates an economic crisis of inflation and rising food prices, ISA remains watchful for opportunities to assist our Egyptian customers by shipping our soybeans efficiently and economically.

Illinois soybean farmers hope to see Egypt remain a significant market for U.S. soy well into the future.

Over the last five years, soybean exports to Egypt have increased by nearly 78%, and that momentum we can only hope will grow.

Illinois soybean farmers should be proud to know they are helping to provide a safe and affordable food supply to the citizens of Egypt. We are truly making a difference, one soybean bushel at a time.

Mark Read, of Henry, is the Illinois Soybean Association District 5 director.