Assistant Commissioner Dr. Sandy Stewart, Director of International Marketing, Peter Thornton, and International Marketing Specialist, Cathy Ma, recently travelled to Nepal with the N.C. Soybean Producers CEO Owen Wagner to explore new export opportunities for N.C. soybeans. “In recent years, we have noticed an uptick in containers of soybeans being shipped to Nepal and surrounding areas,” Dr. Stewart said, “so, this trip not only opens up the opportunity for N.C. farmers to export their beans to another country, but also for that country to experience our state’s agricultural products.”
Soybeans, when crushed, are used to make meal and oil. Due to the large poultry industry in Nepal, soybeans are a necessity to feed livestock. Additionally, the oil can be used in a variety of ways, including in a plethora of recipes. “North Carolina soybeans have qualities that soybeans from other areas do not, including a higher protein content, which is why they would be useful to countries like Nepal,” Dr. Stewart said. “This would be a good opportunity on all fronts because it would not only open up new export opportunities for our farmers, but also provide for a greater need in Nepal by helping to feed their poultry industry.” Although this trip focused solely on soybean exports, there is potential to possibly expand to other commodities in the coming years.
Dr. Stewart and his team, spent eight days total in Nepal. Two of those days were spent at the Full Fat Soybean Meal Convention where producers and spokesmen of the agriculture industry spoke and explored the opportunities for soybeans in Nepal and surrounding areas. “This convention, hosted by the U.S. Soybean Export Council, was a wonderful opportunity to network with people from a variety of other counties, including India,” Dr. Stewart said. “We learned a lot about the soybean market in other countries and had the opportunity, in turn, to tell them about the benefits of North Carolina soybeans and why we should be a player in the soybean arena of Nepal.” In addition to producers and soybean industry experts, crushers and feed meal owners also attended to learn more about opportunities presented to them for expansion and efficiency of their business.
Following the convention, our International Marketing team met with a variety of soybean crushers and feed meal facilities to learn more about their needs as a business and how exporting N.C. soybeans can help increase their productivity and bottom line. “As N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler always says, ‘95% of mouths are outside of North Carolina,’ which means that we have a huge obligation to export some of our state’s agriculture to other parts of the world,” Dr. Stewart said.
It currently takes about six to eight weeks for product to travel from a nearby United States port to Nepal. If/when soybean exports to the country start, they would move through the Norfolk or Charleston port until our state’s Port of Wilmington hopefully expands to open up routes that travel in that direction. Once soybeans reach an inland port in Nepal, they will be sent off to their final destination, whether that be to crushers or feed meal operators. “One of the most surprising things to me was how much manual labor is still being done in Nepal,” Dr. Stewart said. “If you see all the bags of soybeans behind me in the photo below, those were not moved via pallets or even a forklift, they were moved by hand. Soybeans are a huge market for Nepalese people and they bring a lot of jobs to many individuals, so wherever we can help expand that market and provide them with high-quality products for their animals and people, we want to create a mutually beneficial relationship that allows us to do so.”
Overall the trip proved very successful for our NCDA&CS International Marketing team. Although no solid plans have been made, the idea of exporting N.C. soybeans to Nepal was well-received on all fronts. The team, or individual members of it, will follow up later in the year to hopefully start initial shipments of product to the country this fall. “This trip was market exploration more than anything,” Dr. Stewart said. “It was opening up the door of opportunity to hopefully expand the footprint of N.C. agriculture around the world.”
In his spare time, Dr. Stewart greatly enjoyed exploring all the local towns on the border of Nepal and India, including Bratnagar and Birgunj. “Nepal was the most unique country I have ever been too and all the people were very open, friendly and nice,” he said. “I am looking forward to going back one day in the near future and seeing the door of opportunity open between North Carolina agriculture and this wonderful country.” Stay tuned in the fall for a follow up blog with more information on the status of N.C. soybeans overseas in Nepal and its surrounding areas!