A Minnesota trade team visit to Taiwan in late July is already paying dividends for the state’s soybean farmers. Taiwanese trade officials and Minnesota business leaders signed a letter of intent on Sept. 27 to purchase more than $1 billion of soybeans from farmers in Minnesota and Iowa over the next two years.
In late July, Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) chief executive officer Tom Slunecka traveled to Taiwan with a Minnesota Department of Agriculture-sponsored trade team in hopes of driving more sales for Minnesota agricultural commodities while protecting a crucial export market. During the visit, the trade team also met with Taiwan Vegetable Oil Manufacturers Assn. chairman Yau-Kuen Hung.
The newly signed deal is a victory, as Taiwan’s first soybean purchase in 15 years from the Pacific Northwest just occurred this year in the form of three Panamax vessels of soybeans.
“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 said. “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,” MSR&PC chair Patrick O’Leary said. “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.”
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton welcomed the delegation and hosted the signing of letters at the Governor’s Residence in St. Paul, Minn.
"Our trade relations around the world, including Taiwan, are critical to ensuring that our farmers can sell their products in the global marketplace,” Dayton said. “With the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] 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% of the vegetable oil market. The goodwill mission has been organized by Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 1998.
"The U.S. remains one of Taiwan's largest trade partners for agricultural products,” Hung said. “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 was slated to tour 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 growers run their operation and produce their commodities,” Slunecka said. “This is a textbook example of how trade relations prosper and grow.”