What Quality Means to International Buyers

By: Jill Parrent

In this multi-part series, we will identify key points which will range from a consistent supply to obtaining a quality product to sustainability for an Illinois soybean farmer who is selling their product to international buyers that specifically desire U.S. soy.

In a world that is ever competing to grow the best soybeans, the United States is continually striving to be the top soybean grower. Doug Winter, Illinois farmer and United Soybean Board (USB) director strives to grow soybeans with the highest quality and greatest yield possible. Winter answers questions about some of the factors Illinois farmers need to take note of when selling their soybeans. The wants of international soybean buyers have an affect on the characteristics of seed the U.S. farmer puts in the ground along with many environmental conditions during the growing season. Once the product leaves the field, the quality of care by the U.S. is imperative.

Winter farms in southeastern Illinois where he grows soybeans, corn, wheat, and grain sorghum on his family farm. As a United Soybean Board (USB) director, he works to boost yields through innovation and production research while creating new revenue streams, expanding existing markets, or adding new markets to increase demand and drive sales.

Why do international buyers care about a quality product?

No matter where they are in the world, international buyers have a desire for the best quality product. Feed manufacturers, distributors, and importers require a quality, consistent product to be able to manufacture their feed formulations, often for animal feeds. Regardless of whole soybeans, meal product, or more refined products like soy protein isolates, the need is present, and U.S. soybean farms have the ability to fulfill those desires.

How does the United States stand out when international buyers are looking for the highest quality product?

It is common knowledge that countries are continuously competing against one another to have the best grown soybeans. The tropical countries such as South America, have more protein in their soybeans, says Winter. But U.S. and Illinois produced soybeans have a higher level of amino acids. When international buyers are looking at what comes next, they can see that when purchasing U.S. grown soybeans, commercially produced amino acids aren’t necessary as they are already present in U.S. soybeans. This is a more cost-efficient way to mix a feed ration for those farmers. International buyers want to experience the best quality product that meets their needs for the best price, and the U.S. grown soy fulfills their request.

The U.S. has advanced our ability to store the product on the farm, move it, and reduce travel time for the end soy product. The opportunity to stand out begins at harvest when the soybeans are harvested in the field, continues on to the river and ocean terminals, and is maintained the entire journey to the international buyer. Over the years, there has also been developments in handling, less breakage for soybeans, foreign materials, and bean splits. The quality of care the U.S. takes with their soybeans encourages international buyers that their quality will only increase.

What should international buyers know about Illinois soybean farmers?

Illinois soybean farmers have the desire to build a relationship with international buyers. The farmers’ commitment to providing a quality product goes far beyond when it leaves the farm, but until they reach the hands of the buyer. The U.S. is continually looking at all sides of the soybean composition and materials aspects. The importance of how the U.S. handles soybeans is realized and farmers and transportation experts will continue to move in the direction of excellence. There is the universal goal to maintain a high level of quality for buyers and that goal will not be lessened.

What should Illinois farmers should know about the importance of a consistent soybean supply?

Consistently staying on top of the trends of the world competition is vital, Winter explains. With over 60% of Illinois soybeans being exported, understanding how important global trade is and what makes beans attractive to the world market is critical. Farmers need to continually be answering the question about what makes beans attractive to the global market. Farmers need to take careful consideration into the soybean varieties they plant and how they handle the beans from combines to grain systems. By looking into modifications the farmer can make to maintain a quality product, the end customers best interest is always top of mind.

The world marketplace is competitive and will continue to grow based on the desires of the buyers. As Winter farms and observes trends, all farmers must be alert to the opportunity to sell their products to international buyers. Quantity matters, but quality can make a sale.