After Taiwan trip, MSR&PC notches billion-dollar trade win for MN farmers

In late July, Minnesota Soybean CEO Tom Slunecka traveled to Taiwan with a Minnesota Department of Agriculture-sponsored trade team in hopes of driving more sales for Minnesota ag commodities while protecting a crucial export market. During the visit, the trade team met with Taiwan Vegetable Oil Manufacturers Association (TVOA) Chairman Mr. Yau-Kuen Hung.

Slunecka’s outreach on behalf of the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) is already paying dividends for Minnesota’s soybean farmers.

Just two months after the Minnesota trade team visit, Taiwanese trade officials and Minnesota business leaders Thursday signed a letter of intent to purchase more than a billion dollars of soybeans from farmers in Minnesota and Iowa over the next two years.

In 2018, Taiwan bought three panamax vessels of soybeans from the Pacific Northwest (PNW), its first PNW purchase in 15 years.

“You have proven yourself to be a friend to Minnesota soybean growers,” Gov. Mark Dayton said to Chairman Mr. Yau-Kuen Hung. “We have a great crop but a poor price right now, so we’re especially grateful to you.”

“Throughout the meetings in Taiwan with the chairman, I highlighted the supreme quality of Minnesota beans, the quality of our farmers, including their agronomics, storage, transportation and overall management,” Slunecka says. “It’s our core belief that a long-term relationship with Taiwan buying soybeans from our region helps both countries immensely, and clearly the chairman agrees with that assessment.”

The Taiwanese delegation plans to purchase between 3.2 million and 3.9 million metric tons of soybeans between 2018 and 2019. The pledged maximum value of the purchase is to be up to $1.56 billion, which equates to approximately 3.75 million acres of soybeans.

“Taiwan is a $2 billion-per-year market for ag products, so this a big deal for our farmers,” says MSR&PC Chair Patrick O’Leary. “This is the first really good trade news we’ve received in some time, and a large share of the credit goes to our organization for being proactive in securing a trade agreement. Quite honestly, I don’t think you see the Taiwan team signing this declaration in such a timely manner without Minnesota Soybean’s due diligence.”

Gov. Dayton welcomed the delegation and hosted the signing of letters at the Governor’s Residence in St. Paul.

“Our trade relations around the world, including Taiwan, are critical to ensuring that our farmers can sell their products in the global marketplace,” Dayton says. “With the USDA predicting the largest U.S. soybean crop ever, these export opportunities are vitally important.”

Taiwan is a growing consumer of vegetable oils and soybean oil accounts for more than 50 percent of the vegetable oil market. The Goodwill Mission has been organized by Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) since 1998.

“The U.S. remains one of Taiwan’s largest trade partners for agricultural products,” says Chairman Hung. “The Goodwill Mission plays an important role in strengthening the trade relations between our countries and ensuring Taiwan is able to purchase high quality soybeans grown in Minnesota.”

On Friday morning, the Taiwan delegation will be touring the farm of MSR&PC Director Keith Schrader, a soybean farmer from Nerstrand, Minn.

“We couldn’t be more pleased that our friends from Taiwan are going to be seeing firsthand how a growers runs their operation and produces their commodities,” Slunecka says. “This is a textbook example of how trade relations prosper and grow.”


Follow The Conversation