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With Japan market overcrowded, soybean growers look to the US

TAIPEI--Taiwan is hoping to expand its exports of green soybeans to the United States because its main market — Japan — seems to be saturated, according to a local researcher.

Taiwan harvests some 42,000 metric tons of saleable green soybean products, such as edamame, each year, with the majority exported to 19 countries around the world, said Chou Kuo-lung, an associate researcher at the Kaohsiung District Agricultural Research and Extension Station.

Japan is Taiwan's largest export destination for the product, buying about 30,000 tons a year, while the United States is second at around 2,000 metric tons a year, Chou told CNA.

“The Japanese market has grown saturated over the past two years,” Chou said, noting that export volume was down slightly in 2013 after rising in previous years.

Exports of green soybeans, both shelled and in a shell, to Japan in the first 11 months of 2013 fell 2.18 percent from the same period a year earlier, pointing to the need for Taiwan to think about diversifying its markets.

“We aim to expand exports to other countries, especially to the U.S.,” Chou said, hoping to see exports to the U.S. double this year to about 4,000 metric tons.

An aromatic variety developed recently has great market potential and could help Taiwan hit the target, he said.

Dubbed Kaohsiung No. 11, the edible young soybeans are infused with the aroma of taro roots and have a 25-percent higher yield than other varieties, Chou said confidently.

Though the volume of soybean exports to Japan dropped last year, the value of the exports rose because of the development of several better-quality varieties.

Taiwan's vegetable soybean exports hit a record high of US$71.6 million in 2012, up 80 percent from US$39.78 million in 2007, according to official statistics.

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