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A 10-person delegation of the state’s ag leaders recently met with purchasers to discuss possibilities.

Allison Lund

February 20, 2024

3 Min Read
green combine auger extending over a soybean field at harvest
HIGH DEMAND: Tempeh and tofu production in Indonesia could generate demand for about a quarter of the soybeans grown in Indiana. Tom J. Bechman

The Indiana Soybean Alliance has embarked on a project to send Indiana-grown soybeans to Indonesia to meet a demand for food products.

Indonesian foods, largely tempeh and tofu, could generate demand for 2.4 million to 2.5 million metric tons of soybeans per year, or roughly a quarter of Indiana soybean production.

ISA sponsored a 10-person delegation of Indiana agriculture leaders to Indonesia as they met with potential buyers and learned more about the demand for Indiana soybeans in the fourth-largest country by population. Jim Douglas, a farmer from Flat Rock, Ind., and United Soybean Board director, explains the significance of soybeans there.

“They eat soybeans three meals a day,” Douglas says. “It is the main staple, and that’s just different than anywhere else in the world. So, the soybean industry is very important to them.”

High-quality soy

The Indonesian people do not want to skimp on quality. They are looking for high-end soybeans to meet their food needs. Nick Stewart, owner and partner of S&G seeds, sees a solution for filling that gap.

“I think there’s an opportunity for us as Indiana farmers to offer them a higher-end product,” Stewart says. He adds that the product could be cleaned in Indiana before being shipped to contribute to the quality.

Trips like the ISA-led visit to Indonesia aim to help strengthen the bond with Indonesian leaders and soybean purchasers, and to promote high-quality Indiana soybeans.

“A lot of these same companies, we’re visiting year after year to try to reinforce and develop the relationship, so they’re already customers,” Douglas says. “This trip is going to enhance that by delivering a high-end product to them. That’s mainly the focus of this — to try and move that needle and supply that directly out of Indiana.”

What is tempeh?

This soybean demand is driven solely by tempeh and tofu production in Indonesia. Tempeh is an indigenous soy food in Indonesia made from fermented soybeans. It has gained popularity in the last few years.

Andrew Sherman, international trade director for the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, cites the importance of being able to supply product for this cultural food. “We feel that just the ability to supply such a culturally relevant food in tempeh and tofu makes this trip worth it,” he notes.

He explains that there is potential for future business dealings revolving around dairy products, packaged consumer-ready products and high-protein snacks. For now, the goal is to meet that demand for high-quality soybeans with an Indiana-grown product.

“We see success of Indiana agriculture as the ultimate goal,” Sherman says.

RAPP funding to help

This work is made possible through funding via the Regional Agricultural Promotion Program. USDA set aside $2.3 billion to assist U.S. producers in maintaining and developing markets for their products.

This funding would help export Indiana-grown products in shipping containers to other countries. In Indonesia alone, the value of exporting soybeans to meet their needs is $110 million. There is also opportunity to meet food needs in Colombia, Thailand and Japan.

Although no solid deals were nailed down during this trip, ISA plans to continue communications with potential buyers and export sites.

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About the Author(s)

Allison Lund

Allison Lund is a staff writer for Indiana Prairie Farmer. She graduated from Purdue University with a major in agricultural communications and a minor in crop science. She served as president of Purdue’s Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow chapter. In 2022, she received the American FFA Degree. 

Lund grew up on a cash grain farm in south-central Wisconsin, where the primary crops were corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa. Her family also raised chewing tobacco and Hereford cattle. She spent most of her time helping with the tobacco crop in the summer and raising Boer goats for FFA projects. 

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