China’s northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin have rolled out subsidies to encourage farmers to grow more soybeans — which many see as a way for China to reduce its dependency on soybean imports.
In Gongzhuling of Jilin province, the local government is offering subsidies of 580 yuan for each mu of soybeans planted, which translates to around $550 for each acre of soybeans planted.
Farmers in the region told CGTN that the subsidies do improve soybeans’ profit margins when compared with those of corn.
In 2017, China imported over 95 million tons of soybeans — over seven times that of the country’s own soybean production that year. However, that huge demand was mainly for genetically modified soybeans from countries like the US, Brazil, and Argentina. Yet, genetically modified soybeans are not permitted for cultivation in China.
“Genetically modified soybeans have a better immune system, which increases their production. Therefore, the price of genetically modified soybeans is more competitive than domestic ones,” said Wang Cheng, the supervisor for Jilin Qiancheng Agricultural Development Company.
However, Wang added that farmers are also hoping to see expanded distribution channels in addition to subsidies. According to Wang, local soy sauce producers and oil pressing mills are his only clients for soybeans and that demand is very limited.
China’s imports of US soybeans have dropped significantly at a time of tense trade relations between the two countries, but the US is one of the largest suppliers of soybeans to China. Some say it will still take time for more farmers to start growing more soybeans. For now, at least, imports from countries other than the US have picked up.