Soy Food Promotion and Welfare Association (SFPWA), the representative body of the soy food processing industries in India, has demanded to permit the duty-free import of 50,000 metric tons of Non-GM Food Specialty Soybeans (HSN Code: 12019000) under the TRQ scheme because the food specialty soybeans, reportedly, are not grown in India.

Soy is not a staple food in India; hence the requirement to process and serve the best optimal quality to customers is paramount. With specialized modern food processing techniques and scientific interventions, soy food companies have improved their quality a lot. Still, inconsistent and inferior raw soybean quality is the leading cause of dissatisfied consumers wanting better taste, texture, and flavor profiles.

Sarat Chandra Kumar, president of SFPWA, said, “soy food processing is one of the preferred business categories operating in the food processing sector with the strength of over 2,000 small, medium and large-scale units positioned all across the country”. “But due to a lack of affordable, high-quality raw ingredients, we feel challenged for new growth opportunities,” he said. In addition to providing low-cost nutrition to the local area of its operation and complying with India’s “Nutrition Mission,” this industry has generated an extensive employment opportunity in the region, Chandra added.

Soy is the safest, most affordable, and highest quality source of protein in India. However, according to Protein Paradox, a paper recently disseminated, India accounts for 32% (46.6 million) of the world’s stunted children. Moreover, 84% of the Indian vegetarian population is protein deficient, leading to many health consequences, like resistance in immunity to COVID-19. Moreover, nearly 66% of the 1.04 million deaths in children under five in India are attributable to malnutrition.

There are no food specialty soybeans grown in the country; thus, the supply of the same does not exist. While all Indian beans are non-GM, they are also treated as commodity beans regardless of the end-usage, be it in the food or feed industry. Indian soybeans are oil and meal-centric, suitable for animal utilization. When soybeans are needed for food applications, Indian producers grade and select the best beans from the general lots and sell them at a premium price. Unfortunately, this does not qualify to satisfy the specialty food characteristics and does not match the quality standards and expectations for producing retail end products the consumer desires. As a result, many Indian soy food processors are now forced to shut down.

Fortunately, Non-GM specialty food-grade soybeans grown in the United States have specific varieties and traits for various soy food applications. These are Identity preserved (IP) and have been regularly preferred and supplied directly to soy food manufacturers in SE Asia, China, Japan, and other countries. IP is a practice of segregating crops throughout production, processing, and distribution to deliver a specific trait or quality to the end market. These specialty beans have been created and customized with lower oil content, higher inherent sucrose, low oligosaccharide (raffinose and stachyose), and stable protein structures, making them highly suitable for soy food manufacturing. These exclusive technical features contribute to producing a high-quality product with no off smell and greater acceptability.

In consideration of our consumers and soy food businesses, we have respectfully requested our honorable Prime Minister to allow the soy food processing industry to import 50,000 metric tons of the food specialty soybeans from the U.S.A. on a “Zero” duty under tariff-rate quota (TRQ). It will help consumers enjoy a delicious, healthy, protein-rich food source in addition to assisting soy food companies to not only sustain but grow their businesses, all good for the Indian economy and the people, SFPWA said in a statement.