International Relationships Grow Illinois Soy Markets

Featured in the January 2018 issue of our magazine.

Every six or seven weeks, shipping containers of soybean meal journey from Illinois to Yangon, Myanmar, located in Southeast Asia. The meal becomes a key ingredient in high-quality poultry feed produced by Linnthit Animal Feed and Medicine Company, Ltd.

But more than a piece of the soybean export market, these containers signify return on long-term investments made by Illinois soybean farmers in international relationships.

Tein Sin Lee and his brother own and manage Linnthit. Through connections with the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) and the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) checkoff program, their company recently became a new U.S. soybean meal customer.”

Building relationships

In 2014, Lee’s brother connected with Hailey Hui, State of Illinois Asia office trade director with IDOA, at a trade show in China. “The Lees indicated interest in U.S. soybean meal,” Hui says. “I invited his brother to participate in the annual Illinois Grain Industry Tour, but his schedule didn’t allow him to come. Finally, Tein Sin Lee was able to attend the 2016 tour.”

The Illinois Grain Industry Tour promotes Illinois exports. Hui and her counterparts in the State of Illinois Latin American office recruit and qualify potential international buyers to attend. As with the Lees, the IDOA trade directors meet buyers at trade shows or through industry associations, contacts and referrals.

The Springfield IDOA office organizes the tour to showcase the Illinois crop industry with stops at farms, specialty grain companies, grain terminals, the Chicago Board of Trade and more. The buyers also meet farmers and staff from ISA and the Illinois Corn Marketing Board.

“We wanted more options to buy soybean meal,” says Lee. “This tour provided access to U.S. soybean meal because it was in the heart of soybean cultivation.”

During the October 2016 tour, Lee expressed further interest in purchasing U.S. soybean meal. “I saw good quality soybean meal in Illinois,” he says. “We had purchased U.S. soybean meal from Singapore, but were disappointed because the dealer didn’t satisfy our requirements. We wanted to purchase directly from the U.S.”

Building markets

Both Hui and Eric Woodie, ISA trade analyst and facilitator, followed up with Lee after the tour. They provided price and specification information, answered questions and connected Lee to local exporters, guiding him through the process of importing from the U.S. By the spring of 2017, Lee’s first order of soybean meal shipped, and orders have since grown.

“The quality of U.S. soybean meal is good in every aspect,” he says.

“We share about working with Illinois as a great accomplishment in business and as we travel.”

U.S. soybean meal provides a more efficient amino acid profile, a more consistent supply, different texture and less foreign matter than soybean meal from India, according to Woodie.

“Myanmar is a growing market,” he says. “It’s getting easier to trade as sanctions change, the economy improves and they learn to feed more efficient products. We expect exports there to continue growing.”

Woodie helps Illinois export companies connect with new customers like Lee. He vets and qualifies potential customers, a process many companies don’t have time to manage.