SEOUL, KOREA – With a government incentive to plant less rice, Korea’s soybean production in 2018-19 is expected to increase 20% to 100,000 tonnes, according to a March 7 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Seoul Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) said according to a survey by the Korean Rural Economic Institute (KREI), soybean area is forecast to increase 45,775 hectares, a less than 1% increase. But KREI said that figure didn’t reflect the effect of domestic rice area reduction programs that encourage soybean cultivation on paddy land.

“Using the KREI survey results and the rice reduction program as a benchmark, post is forecasting that soybean production for 2018-19 will increase by 20 percent from KOSTAT official data in the previous year based on a five-year average yield,” FAS said. “Yields are expected to be similar to last year’s yields, which had rebounded from the preceding year due to favorable weather conditions.”

Total domestic soybean consumption is estimated at 1.37 million tonnes, unchanged from the current marketing year’s estimate. A majority of that, about 1 million tonnes, will be crushed while 320,000 tonnes will be used for domestic food such as tofu, soymilk and soy sauce. The remaining 50,000 tonnes will domestic feed and waste, FAS said.

Imports are expected to remain at 1.27 million tonnes.

Soybean meal production is expected to hold steady at 792,000 tonnes as well as consumption at 2.72 million tonnes.

Soybean oil production also will not change at 190,000 tonnes. Of the 310,000 tonnes in imports, about 160,000 tonnes will come from the U.S.

Consumption of soybean oil is forecast at 490,000 tonnes, similar to the previous market year.

“Palm oil imports will continue increasing to meet the demand of biodiesel as Korea increased the blend mandate to three percent from the previous biodiesel blend requirement of 2.5% beginning this year,” FAS said.