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What to know about soybean: Global source of food, fuel and feed

What to know about soybean: Global source of food, fuel and feed

Soybean is known for its high protein value. The health and nutritious benefits of the bean transcend the shores of Nigeria.

The seeds can be yellow, green, brown, black, or bicoloured, though most commercial varieties have brown or tan seeds, with one to four seeds per pod.

The beans are low in carbohydrates and have a very low glycemic index, which is a measure of how foods affect the rise in blood sugar after a meal.

Even in its different forms such as soya milk, tofu, and soya oil, among others, it is a good source of protein, containing significant amounts of phytic acid, dietary minerals and B vitamins.

It is one of the few plant-based proteins that are considered to have all the essential amino acids.

Health experts have advised that daily consumption of any form of soybean is a good protein supplement and can be introduced to meals alongside fish.

In Nigeria, cultivation begins in May/June when the rain begins and harvesting takes place in October/November, depending on the time of sowing.

Read also: Nigeria’s agric export surge 48% on weaker naira in 2023

Uses

The uses of soybeans are innumerable, ranging from health to food. Due to its protein value, different processed forms of the bean are healthy.

Soybean is one of the richest and cheapest sources of protein and is a staple in the diets of people and animals in numerous parts of the world.

The seed contains 17 percent oil and 63 percent meal of which 53 percent is protein – a good protein source for diabetics.

Human beings consume 20 percent of processed soybean. It is processed into tofu, a meal prepared by coagulating soy milk. Tofu is a popular dish in Asia.

Also, soy milk, derived from grounded soybean, is a sweet drink many people consume globally. Soybeans have high levels of isoflavones and antioxidants as well as immune-boosting properties.

Soya bean flour is used in pastries, pasta, desserts, and when added to wheat flour it enhances its nutritive value. When used to replace eggs in pastries, it has added advantage of reducing the health problems associated with cholesterol.

Due to its high protein content, teaspoonfuls of soya bean flour could be added to yam flour, pap, soups and garri as is being currently done by many people in Nigeria.

Soy oil (13.2 percent of processed soybean), also a form of processed soybean is a high-quality table oil with natural flavours, it has up to 61 percent poly-unsaturated fatty acids. They are used as flavours in salads, pastries and cooking in general.

According to Our World In Data, about 76 percent of processed soybean serve as animal feed. In its processed form, soybean serves as feed for pigs (20.2 percent), poultry birds (37 percent), fishes (5.6 percent) and livestocks (7 percent), providing protein nutrients for them.

Huge export potential

Over the years, soybean has been on the list of top agric products exported to other countries like China, Nepal, Pakistan and Turkey.

In 2023, Nigeria exported soybeans valued at N148.2 billion. On a year-on-year basis, the commodity surged 561 percent from N22.42 billion in 2022.

The Nigerian Export Promotion Council says Nigeria’s soybeans production is rising steadily spurred by favourable grower prices and high demand.

Nigeria is a top grower of the legume after South Africa in the African continent, while Brazil, United States and Argentina are top producers of the grain globally.

The country produces 1,1 million metric tons of the commodity in 2022, according to data from the Food and Agricultural Organisation.

According to experts, the legume has the potential to be a major FX earner for the country if Africa’s biggest economy can double its current production of the legume.