WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — With swine herd numbers in Germany reaching 20-year lows, leading to a corresponding drop in demand for pig feed, the country’s soybean imports are expected to decline, according to an Aug. 19 Global Information Agricultural Network report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

With 25.9 million hogs, Germany has the second-largest swine herd in the E.U. behind Spain (30.8 million). Although the German pork sector has experienced periods of growth during the past two decades, recent market declines have reduced production to its lowest level since 2001, the USDA said.

Since 2015, there has been a downward trend, with the swine herd reaching a low of 25.9 million head in May 2019.

The USDA said that in the first of the 2018-19 marketing year, pig feed consumption was down by 3.3% compared to the first half of the 2017-18 marketing year.

Germany relies heavily on oilseed imports — namely soybeans and rapeseed — for protein in animal feed rations, particularly swine feed. Around 25% of the country’s annual protein feed supply is derives from imported oilseeds, the USDA said.

If this downward trend in German pork consumption continues, the USDA said it will impact the U.S. soybean industry.

“The United States has become Germany’s largest supplier of commodity soybeans, with direct sales of $532 million to Germany in 2018,” the USDA said. “The U.S. will likely encounter a decrease in soy demand from the German pork sector in the near term.”