WISHH Positions U.S. Soy for New International Market Success

Jul 27, 2021

Countries shown in orange represent active WISHH programs. Yellow countries represent past WISHH programs.

The work of ASA’s World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) puts U.S. soy on the right track to reach new and emerging export markets.

“From aquaculture in Africa to soy-fortified beverages in Central America, WISHH is trailblazing new opportunities for U.S. soy demand,” says ASA Director and WISHH Secretary Morey Hill, a soybean grower from Iowa.

Here are three examples of other opportunities to create demand for U.S. soy that align with WISHH’s strategic direction:

World Food Prize winner and nutrition discussions align with WISHH’s aquaculture leadership

The Iowa-based World Food Prize held a virtual announcement in May to announce Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted, Ph.D., as its 2021 winner for her pioneering global leadership in aquaculture development for human nutrition.

Thilsted is the global lead for nutrition and public health at World Fish, an international aquaculture innovation institute. During the announcement, Thilsted said she hopes the global narrative will shift from a focus on “feeding” to prioritize “nourishing a growing global population.”

WISHH shares Thilsted’s recognition of the important role of aquaculture and has led many innovative projects to advance aquaculture on three continents. More than a decade ago, WISHH identified an opportunity to reduce the protein gap in Pakistan through improvements to the aquaculture industry. From 2010-15, WISHH led the USDA-funded FEEDing Pakistan Project to work within the feed value chain. The project resulted in an increased quality supply of soy-based aquaculture feed through improved production efficiency, which ultimately provides consumers access to safe, affordable fish protein. WISHH then graduated its work in Pakistan to the U.S. Soybean Export Council to oversee its future growth.

Currently in Cambodia, WISHH leads another USDA-funded project: Commercialization of Aquaculture for Sustainable Trade (CAST)–Cambodia. The project is designed to accelerate production of high-demand fish species for the Cambodian market and develop a lasting aquaculture industry. CAST strengthens local production of high-quality feed and fish. Through CAST, Cambodia’s private sector and universities work closely with U.S. soybean growers and businesses, as well as academic and non-governmental organizations.

WISHH’s work with African aquaculture entrepreneurs includes providing virtual trainings, demonstrations and expert advice so  African aquaculture entrepreneurs can capitalize on the important economic and nutritional benefits that result from fish eating soy-based feeds.

Underscoring the importance of this aquaculture development is a new report; The United Nation’s discussion paper, The Role of Aquatic Foods in Sustainable Healthy Diets, emphasizes the importance of aquatic diets for protein, essential micronutrients and fatty acids—and states that 3.3 billion people depend on fish and fish-based products for nutrition.

WISHH remains committed to ensuring U.S. soy plays a role in delivering improved nutrition to people through the growth of global aquaculture systems.

Central American food and beverage markets grow despite pandemic

Countries shown in orange represent active WISHH programs. Yellow countries represent past WISHH programs.

Recent USDA reports feature Guatemala and El Salvador as important countries for U.S. agriculture, even as the countries face the challenges of COVID-19. WISHH’s ongoing strategies in these countries capitalize on the opportunities to grow U.S. soy’s presence in human foods.

USDA’s recent Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report on Guatemala states, “Guatemala is one of the top food processing countries in Central America. U.S. suppliers have a good opportunity to export bulk commodities and raw materials for further processing in Guatemala’s food industry. In 2020, Guatemalan export sales of processed foods to the world were $2.9 billion, and despite the pandemic, the food and beverage sector in Guatemala increased its exports by 2.8% from 2019. This sector represented 3.8% of total GDP.”

The USDA report specifically recognizes opportunities for soy in Guatemalan beverages, as well as snacks--two of the sectors where WISHH has not let COVID-19 slow its work with key food and beverage manufacturers. When COVID-19 restrictions blocked travel, WISHH launched online technical assistance, supporting three times the number of companies typically served using the in-person training approach.

The trainings build on WISHH’s 2019 USDA Agricultural Trade Promotion-funded market assessment. WISHH’s research revealed that nearly half of Central American and Dominican Republic key food and beverage manufacturing executives surveyed would invest their own capital into equipment and expand their businesses if WISHH could provide them with technical assistance or training and outline the cost benefits of incorporating soy protein ingredients.

USDA’s GAIN report on El Salvador references the Salvadoran Industrialists Association’s latest industry statistics (2019) that show, “food imports registered a total of $882.6 million, which is 17.6% more than in 2018. It is notable that despite the pandemic, which hit most economic sectors hard, El Salvador’s food industry continued steady operations.”

Furthermore, new Salvadoran government regulations ban fatty/salty snacks and carbonated beverages at schools. USDA reports the policy opens opportunities for U.S. soybeans as a healthier option.

USDA report recognizes ASA/WISHH results in Kenya—East Africa’s ‘Economic Powerhouse’

USDA’s new GAIN report on Kenya recognizes ASA/WISHH’s results in Kenya, which it describes as East Africa’s “economic powerhouse.” The USDA analysis finds Kenya home to a fast-growing population and middle class, as well as an expanding food service and modern food retail sector.

“The market development activities by U.S. cooperators in Kenya and the East African region have increased the level of knowledge of U.S. food ingredients including soy-based products, wheat, peas, lentils, and dry beans,” states the report, which names WISHH.

The report also points out that local ingredient production does not always meet the processing industry’s demand, including for soybeans and corn.

WISHH first sent a team of consultants to Kenya in 2001. Currently, WISHH is working with Kenyan food and feed manufacturers like ProSoya Kenya. The company is located in Nairobi, Kenya’s political, economic and financial center, which has an estimated population of 4.7 million. USDA reports that Nairobi’s high concentration of consumers, combined with the city’s commercial power, makes it Kenya’s most dominant market.

ProSoya Kenya is participating in WISHH’s United Soybean Board-funded “Mobilizing Entrepreneurs to Expand U.S. Soy Utilization in Developing and Emerging Markets” initiative that works to compress the time for a new U.S. soybean market to go from emerging market entry to basic market ready. The initiative attracts and mentors entrepreneurs who can invest in developing and emerging market soy enterprises, bringing new market sectors into the U.S. soy market pipeline.