BEIJING, CHINA — As part of a larger plan to bolster food security, the Chinese government announced it plans to reduce the amount of soybean meal used in feed products.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs posted a notice on its website from a meeting held Sept. 19 that outlined the plan.

“The demand for feed grains continues to grow, and the most prominent contradiction in food security lies in feed grains,” the ministry said. “Soybean meal reduction and substitution is not only a passive choice to deal with the uncertainty of external supply, but also an active action to implement the new development concept to promote high-quality development.”

The ministry emphasized that in the face of the more arduous task of stabilizing the production and supply of animal products and the increasingly tight resource and environmental constraints, it is necessary to take more powerful measures to maximize the potential of soybean meal and other feed grains.

In recent years, the ministry said it has vigorously implemented the soybean meal reduction and substitution action, focusing on “efficiency reduction and open-source substitution,” reducing soybean meal consumption on the demand side and increasing the supply of alternative resources on the supply side, which it said has achieved good results.

The ministry noted that in 2021, the proportion of soybean meal in the feed consumed by the national aquaculture industry dropped to 15.3%, down 2.5 percentage points from 2017, saving 11 million tonnes of soybean meal, equivalent to 14 million tonnes of soybeans.

China, by far the world’s largest importer of soybeans, has seen increases in soybean and soybean meal production in recent years. The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the US Department of Agriculture projects a record 75.2 million tonnes of soybean meal output in 2022-23 and forecasts a domestic soybean crop of 18.4 million tonnes, which also would be a record.

However, it is still mostly dependent on soybean imports to supply its domestic users. The FAS projects Chinese soybean imports to reach 97 million tonnes in 2022-23, which would be the third highest total ever.