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China aims to further lower soybean meal use, reduce hog capacity

Officials say the level of protein in China’s animal feed is ‘more than sufficient.’

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The level of protein in China’s animal feed is “more than sufficient,” according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA), and authorities there continue to work to lower the use of soybean meal.

According to reports, Chen Bangxun, who oversees agricultural planning at MARA, said China’s soybean imports were up 11.4% in 2023, despite efforts to increase domestic production. He said much of that goes toward animal feed manufacturing, driving up demand for imported soybeans.

“It is scientifically and practically plausible to reduce soybean meal consumption by resorting to substitutes,” Chen said at a news conference.

In 2023, MARA announced a series of measures aimed at reducing soybean imports. Key to the three-year action plan were investigations into alternative feed proteins, greater use of grass and other forages, and a controlled reduction in soybean inclusion by 0.5% per year.

MARA guidance recommends rice, cassava, rice bran, barley and sorghum as alternatives to corn. Acceptable alternatives to soybean meal include rapeseed meal, cottonseed meal, peanut meal, sunflower meal, distillers dried grains, palm meal, flaxmeal, sesame meal and corn processing byproducts. It also suggests feed formulations based on the region of the country, such as reducing corn by at least 15% in pig rations in the Northeast by using rice and rice bran. In the southern region, it recommends using sorghum, cassava flour, rice bran meal and barley to replace corn in pig feed.

According to MARA, for the January-to-November 2023 period, uptake soybean meal for feed was 11% lower than in the same period of 2022 at 4.44 million metric tons (mmt).

Reformulating feeds with less soybean meal won’t affect nutrition, Chen said, “given that synthetic amino acids - the major nutrients that soybean meal provides - and more efficient processing techniques would be used to ensure protein levels,” according to China Daily.

Guidance to reduce hog capacity

Also at the news conference, Lei Liugong, director of market and information technology at MARA, said China will “guide” farmers to reduce hog capacity as it increases industry regulation.

“Big agribusinesses in the world’s top pork producer have modernized farms and expanded pig herds so rapidly in recent years that a downturn in demand led to plummeting hog prices, mounting losses and rising debt last year,” according to Reuters.

In 2023, pig producers lost CNY76 (US$10.60) per hog, Lei said.

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