THE soya bean has been described as unquestionably the most important food plant in the world. It contains all the elements necessary for a balanced diet. Ground dry, it yields flour from which bread can be made; ground wet and curdled, it forms bean curd which may be substituted for meat; plucked green, it may be used as a vegetable, rich in vitamins; fermented, it yields sauces; pressed, it produces oil for use in cooking. The soya bean also is food for cattle, while the bean cake makes excellent fertilizer. In addition to its food properties, the bean and its by-products have a multitude of industrial uses ranging from an ingredient of paint to a substitute for rubber.

The soya bean is the principal crop in Manchuria. Under Japanese management its culture has been developed and its uses extended. It has had a dominant part in drawing 30,000,000 Chinese to Manchuria, and it has aided them in building there a prosperous community. The profit from its transport and sale has in large measure supported the Japanese adventures on the mainland of Asia. Thus it has been an important factor in determining the policies of Far Eastern countries in the regions where it is grown most successfully.

From the Far East, where it is indigenous, the soya bean has been introduced to other parts of the world and it can be successfully cultivated in many countries. Outside of Asia, the greatest progress in its development has been made in the United States. In Europe it is grown in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and to some extent in Germany. Table I gives the figures for the principal producing countries.

Japan's predominant influence in Manchuria dates from the end of the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. In those days Manchuria had an unfavorable trade balance. By 1917 it had become favorable, and today this balance is as great as the total of imports into Manchuria. Table II shows the growth of Manchuria's trade and the favorable balance which she has enjoyed in recent years.

The importance of the soya bean in maintaining this favorable trade balance for Manchuria may be seen from Table III, which compares the principal exports by value (in millions of Haikwan taels) and gives the percentage which each represents in the total exports.

Apart from Manchuria, most of the countries which produce soya beans find a market for them at home. An exception is the United States, which in 1932 exported 112,700 tons -- a figure roughly equivalent to 5 percent of Manchuria's export in the same year. In recent years something like a fifth of the Manchurian export of beans and about three-fourths of the export of bean oil has gone to Japan; most of the rest has been sent to Europe. Table IV shows where these products have been shipped.

At a time when there is supposed to be an over-production of foodstuffs in many parts of the world, with huge surpluses hanging over the markets and depressing prices, it may be wondered what merit there is in studying the possibility

 

I. WORLD SOYA BEAN PRODUCTION
  Acres under Annual Production Production Percentage of
  Cultivation (in bushels) (per acre) World Production
Manchuria 10,184,928 208,298,428 20.4 59.3
China Proper 5,635,000 89,340,000 15.8 25.4
Japan 913,836 15,238,873 16.6 4.3
Korea 1,942,922 20,431,745 10.5 5.8
U. S. A 1,373,000 18,146,000 13.2 5.2
  --------- ---------- ---- ----
Total 20,049,686 351,455,046   100.0

 

II. TRADE OF MANCHURIA
(in millions of Haikwan taels)
Year Imports Exports Total Balance
1907 30.7 22.0 52.7 - 8.6
1917 158.6 161.1 319.7 + 2.5
1927 262.3 401.3 663.6 +139.0
1928 294.8 428.6 723.5 +133.8
1929 322.4 422.8 745.2 +100.4
1930 296.6 389.9 686.6 + 93.3
1931 218.9 473.9 692.8 +255.0
1932 192.9 384.5 577.4 +191.6

 

III. EXPORTS OF MANCHURIA1
(in millions of Haikwan taels)
  Soya Bean Products Coal Kaoliang Millet Pig Iron
  Value Percent Value Percent Value Percent Value Percent Value Percent
1927 219.5 54.5 35.3 8.8 18.9 4.7 32.0 8.0 6.1 1.5
1928 245.7 57.2 34.9 8.1 19.2 4.5 23.5 5.5 7.5 1.7
1929 255.1 60.6 37.6 8.9 7.7 1.8 16.5 3.9 7.4 1.7
1930 206.9 53.2 37.6 9.7 6.4 1.6 24.4 6.3 8.5 2.2
1931 274.2 58.2 45.6 9.7 15.3 3.2 10.9 2.3 10.8 2.3
1932 234.6 60.8 32.6 8.5 18.2 4.7 15.1 3.9 9.6 2.5
1 Compiled from "Economic Handbook of the Pacific Area" (Institute of Pacific Relations New York, 1934).

 

IV. IMPORTS OF SOYA BEAN AND SOYA BEAN OIL
  Soya Beans (in tons) Soya Bean Oil (in tons)
  1930 1932 1930 1932
United Kingdom 91,309 158,938 25,249 27,343
United States ....... ....... 3,276 180
France 547 14,293 11,777 4,208
Holland 19,231 41,684 1,099 2,590
Denmark 176,264 288,864 1,946 2,257
Germany 874,790 1,168,300 12,871 3,739
Italy 8,043 21,504 2,849 3,488
Belgium ....... ....... 20,549 5,600
Japan 511,500 481,600 76,725 72,240

of developing soya bean production. But though there are food surpluses in many countries, a substantial portion of the world's population -- and this is particularly true in the Orient -- has insufficient to eat. The soya bean may assist in improving this condition, or it may displace other crops which are less valuable. Furthermore, the soya bean is not merely a food product; one might even say, in view of its many industrial uses, that it is not essentially a food product.

Cultivation of the soya bean has proved profitable in the United States. Until quite recently the whole production was absorbed domestically, but recently it has been demonstrated that the American bean can find a market in Europe. It is now evident that American agricultural methods, fostered by the research work of the Department of Agriculture, have produced a bean which not only can compete with the Manchurian bean but is an improvement on it, so that it is growing in favor with British and European mills. Thus the development of the American soya bean may make up for part of the losses suffered by American trade in various directions -- notably the loss in foreign demand for American wheat. Indeed, it has been proven that the bean will grow in the middle western states which find themselves with a surplus of wheat and a dearth of substitute crops. Now that wheat acreage is being curtailed, may not the soya bean provide a new source of revenue for the harassed farmer? Doubtless economic planners in Washington have given consideration to this possibility. The United States Department of Agriculture has shown by practical experiments what are the best varieties for different states, and expects good profits for the grower when the bean obtains the public recognition it deserves.

It is not easy to foresee the consequences that would flow from a vigorous expansion of the American soya bean crop. Inevitably the American bean would set up keen competition with the Manchurian product. If it were to supersede the latter in the European market the prosperity of Manchuria would be menaced. But it seems clear that with increasing knowledge of the peerless qualities of the bean, both as food and for industrial and agricultural purposes, the demand for it, not only in Europe but in all countries, will increase.

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