Solidaridad facilitates breakthrough in China's first certified responsible soybean

A Solidaridad project in northern China has resulted for the first time ever in Chinese certified responsible soybeans. The Sinograin Northern Agricultural Development Company has become the first Chinese agricultural company to successfully secure the certification of the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS). The RTRS is the international standard for responsible production, processing and trade of soy worldwide.

An impulse for promoting responsible soy in China

The first certification is a milestone in promoting the sustainability of soy production in China, especially since Sinograin is one of the country’s largest state-owned companies. Mr. Wang Feng, General Manager of Sinograin North:

“In February 2014, Sinograin North has honourably received the first RTRS certification in China, which is a milestone both for Sinograin North and the soy production industry in this country. This will speed up our industry upgrading, promote the sustainable development of responsible soy, enhance the communication and cooperation with the overseas market and build a bridge towards the global market."

The Solidaridad project has covered Sinograin’s eight agricultural farms in the Nenjiang area; 25,406 hectares of land producing 40,000 metric tons of soybean, employing 1100 full-time and 1200 part-time workers. China is the single largest consumer and importer of soy, as well as the 4th largest producer worldwide.

Solidaridad’s soy project in China

The project started in 2012 with two large soy farms—the Sinograin North and Nenjiang farms— which cover a total area of 50,000 hectares of soy and employ 3000 workers. The area also has 28,000 smallholder farmers, with an average land ownership of 0.4 hectares. The project has had important impacts thus far:

In 2013, due to extremely low temperatures, the yields and therefore incomes of soy farmers in the area decreased dramatically. Farmers participating in the project, however, were able to maintain the same level of income. Furthermore, the average use of fertilizer and pesticides by project participants has been reduced by 5%-10%.

Sinograin North recruited farmers from local rural communities as part-time workers and provided them with training, thus boosting opportunities in the local labour market. Moreover, it enhanced workplace security by increasing the frequency of equipment safety inspections and providing an on-site medical care service during the busy production and harvesting season.

Continuation of the Chinese soy programme

Solidaridad China has been dedicated to helping farms become RTRS certified by offering consistent technical support systems, which include a series of trainings, in-field guidance, a management consulting service for large soy companies and cooperatives, and by further ensuring that smallholders adopt the criteria for responsible soy production via a smallholder capacity-building programme.

In 2014, Solidaridad China will continue to support Sinograin North with the expansion of its RTRS certified land to another 28,000 ha, producing 60,000 metric tons. This will be done through the improvement of the company’s internal quality control and with a market development plan for the certified soy product. Both the company’s full-time and part-time farm workers will also be trained on a yearly basis beyond RTRS requirements in order to ensure continuous and sustainable improvement. Moreover, Solidaridad will gather the knowledge and best practices gained during the successful certification project at Sinograin North to share with the 28,000 smallholders (who are united in cooperatives) in Nenjiang area in order to help them enhance their productivity and product quality.