Leaders from the soy checkoff and the American Soybean Association this week met with Middle Eastern and North African customers in Amman, Jordan, to discuss secure ways to maintain exports during turbulent times.
As of late, political unrest has disrupted lines of trade to once-promising export markets in the Middle East, such as Syria.
"Markets in the Middle East represent a valuable and impactful dual opportunity for the U.S. soy family," ASA Chairman Steve Wellman said. "There definitely still is a demand here for products that contain soybean meal and we certainly want to be a supplier for this marketplace."
The hope for the meeting in Jordan, the checkoff said, is to find more stable lines for trade to increase U.S. soy exports to the region. Countries such as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates could be potential trade centers for U.S. agriculture in this area.
During a press call, United Soybean Board farmer-leader Scott Singlestad said there have been issues in having enough product and moving it to where it is needed, along with issues transferring payments and money transfers.
"We're hopeful that things cool down and business can resume in the future," Singlestad said.
Most soybean imports in the Middle East and North Africa are crushed, and the meal is used for poultry and aquaculture feed, leaving the oil for use in cooking and frying. Between 2010-2011, Syria brought in 18 million bushels of U.S. soybeans.
"As the markets emerge and buying power increases, so does the demand for the animal agriculture products of which our soybeans are such an integral part," Wellman explained.
While in the region, Wellman and Singlestad also attended the dedication of the U.S. Soybean Export Council's Dubai office.
This office, located in an international business hub of the area, will provide the U.S. soy industry access to even more potential customers, Wellman explained. He noted that the office will also facilitate relationships between American and local staffs.
"We're there to provide information that they want on soy in nutrition for both humans and animals," Singlestad said. "There's no better way to keep peace in the world than to make sure everyone has enough food."