‘Making history’: MN Soybean checkoff investment leads to first US soybean meal shipment to Uzbekistan

After years of establishing relationships, another Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) checkoff investment has paid off. In August 2022 – for the first time – Uzbekistan traders imported 700 MT of U.S. soymeal. 

“Our checkoff investments are making history,” MSR&PC Director Patrick O’Leary said. “Getting soybeans to Uzbekistan can be challenging, as it is a double landlocked country. However, this shipment has potential to create a significant market for Minnesota soybean farmers.”

Since 2020, MSR&PC has invested checkoff dollars in projects in Uzbekistan to identify the country’s needs for U.S. soy. Those forward-looking endeavors helped move the needle, Council Director of Market Development Kim Nill said.

“We started a series of surveys – surveying the poultry industry, the dairy industry and the aquaculture industry,” Nill said. “We located all the big modern farms and were pleasantly surprised that they do have big modern poultry farms with modern genetics, medium size dairies with modern Holstein genetics. And quite frankly, until we did the surveys, no one really was aware that they installed such modern technology and had entrepreneurs and the capital to put together those facilities.”

MSR&PC contractor Chris Andrews, who lives in Uzbekistan, assisted in these surveys and helped find the need for U.S. soy in Uzbekistan. He said the Council’s work in Uzbekistan has only just begun. 

“We need to keep pushing forward,” Andrews said. “The capital is there, and the technology is there to process U.S. soy.”

With lack of resources in the region, U.S. soy is a unique opportunity for Uzbek importers.

“U.S. soy that goes into Uzbekistan is not displacing anyone else. They were using things such as sunflower, seed meal, cotton seed meal, wheat, etc.” Nill said. “All of them inferior in quality to soy and all of them are in short supply now because of drought in surrounding countries or ongoing war.”

As a result of Andrews’ efforts, the Uzbek agriculture administration contacted Andrews wanting to help make available some a U.S.-origin shipments of soy. With the cooperation of the Uzbek government, a subsidy was put in place that helped pay half the overland freight cost, ultimately assisting in making the U.S. soy a viable option. 

Looking forward

With the first shipment of U.S. soybeans now in Uzbekistan, the Council is hopeful and optimistic that this market can continue growing. 

“It is gratifying Minnesota Soybean’s investment in Uzbekistan has achieved results in a short amount of time,” Andrews said, “but there is still work to be done.” 

The first shipment to Uzbekistan took eight months to arrive from the U.S. to Uzbekistan. Now, the U.S. will have to play the waiting game.

“Right now they are testing the waters with our soybeans,” Nill said. “We need to keep chirping in their ear the benefits of our product.”

And that’s just what Nill and some farmer leaders will be doing. In September, Council Directors will join Nill on a trade mission to Uzbekistan, further building relationships with this emerging market. 

“Our intent is to thank the buyers for buying U.S. soy and see if there is anything we can do to make it easier in the future,” Nill said. “We look forward.” 

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