Where Soya came from and Soya in South Africa

South Africa

Despite South Africa's huge demand for soya oilcake, local soya-processing facilities are few and far between. Usually small group of farmers and businesspeople are taking advantage of this situation – they process their own soya bean crops to supply local animal feed manufacturers with a home-grown product.

The Soybean - Glycine max - has been used in China for 5 000 years in crop rotation, as a food and in medicines. It is an annual legume of the Fabaceae family and is thought to have derived from Glycine nosuriensis, a legume indigenous to the Manchurian region of China, not far from the Korean border. Legumes are plants producing edible seedpods that can be picked by hand.

Economically, the soybean is the most important legume in the world, providing good quality vegetable protein for millions of people and animals, and ingredients for numerous products. In the late 20th Century and into the present, soybeans have played an important part in helping to alleviate world hunger.

Soy comes to South Africa

The first record of soybeans in South Africa appears in the Cedara Memoirs of 1903. The beans were imported from China, but did not germinate properly. Soybeans were also planted at the Research Centre in Potchefstroom. In the early Fifties, the Centre produced a well adjusted line and named it 'Geduld' (meaning 'Patience'). From 10 000 tonnes produced in the Seventies, production had risen by 2001 to 190 000 tonnes. Initial soy crops were restricted to the Bapsfontein area and the Northern Lowveld region.

Where is Soya cultivated?

The average total South African soy crop yield is 2010-720000 M/t ;2009-560000M/t, tonnes, soybeans now being grown commercially in the following areas (indicated by main towns in each region). Amersfoort Carolina Koedoeskop Thabazimbi Beestekraal Ermelo Middelburg Vrede Bergville Frankfort Morgenson Vryheid Bethal Hendrina Newcastle Warden Brits Hopetown Paulpietersburg Winterton

From 3 pods on a plant to 350

The soybean plant is a bushy, summer annual with three-fold leaves which grows to between 60 and 120 centimetres - depending upon the number of plants per area, growing conditions and choice of cultivar. These variations will also control the number of pods per plant which can range from 3 to 350 pods. The plant may be cultivated in most types of soil but thrives best in warm, fertile, clayish land.

Depending upon local conditions, soybeans are typically planted in November through December. The plants react to day/night length ratios which stimulate the reproduction process. Planting in January will result in a shorter plant with lower harvest potential, as the days shorten during growth. On ripening, the leaves turn yellow and the moisture content of the seeds drops - from about 65% to 14% within 14 days - given that the weather is dry and hot.

Despite South Africa's huge demand for soya oilcake, local soya-processing facilities are few and far between. Usually small group of farmers and businesspeople are taking advantage of this situation – they process their own soya bean crops to supply local animal feed manufacturers with a home-grown product.

The Protein Research

Soy Foundation estimates that in 2010 South Africa will need 2,07 million tons of protein for animal feed. This is projected to increase to around 2,8 million tons in 2020. But in 2006/07, the country produced only about 36 500t, and imported 67% of its oilcake protein needs, of which 808 000t was soya based.