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U.S. Soybeans Benefit Indonesian Tempeh and Tofu Producers

Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse takes a handful of U.S. soybeans used at a ‘tempeh/tofu village’ production site in East Jakarta on April 6.  Scuse visited the village – which uses 100 percent U.S. soybeans to produce tempeh and tofu, which are soy-based stables of the Indonesian diet – during an Agribusiness Trade and Investment Mission to Indonesia that he led last week. Photographer, Danumurthi Mahendra, U.S. Embassy, Jakarta

Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse takes a handful of U.S. soybeans used at a ‘tempeh/tofu village’ production site in East Jakarta on April 6. Scuse visited the village – which uses 100 percent U.S. soybeans to produce tempeh and tofu, which are soy-based stables of the Indonesian diet – during an Agribusiness Trade and Investment Mission to Indonesia that he led last week. Photographer, Danumurthi Mahendra, U.S. Embassy, Jakarta

This is the third in a series of three blogs affiliated with USDA’s Agribusiness Trade and Investment Mission, which was led by Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse.

While leading this week’s Agribusiness Trade and Investment Mission to Indonesia, I’ve been gratified to see firsthand how U.S. food and agricultural products are benefitting the Indonesian people. My itinerary included a visit to a tempeh and tofu production compound, or village, in the Cipayung neighborhood of East Jakarta, where local workers are using U.S. soybeans to produce nutritious, affordable, high-quality food products.

Tempeh, a cake made from fermented soybeans, and tofu or soybean curd, are staples of the Indonesian diet. Those with limited incomes rely on these relatively inexpensive, soy-based products for their high protein and nutrient content. Demand for the products continues to grow, especially in Greater Jakarta, which has one of the fastest-growing population rates of any urban area in the world. But historically, tempeh and tofu production has been small-scale, informal and often unhygienic.

In January 2008, the American Soybean Association-International Marketing (ASA-IM) – which receives export market development funding from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service – established Forum Tempeh Indonesia (FTI) to provide support to small-scale tempeh producers at the village level, particularly in the area of proper hygiene.  Mercy Corps International, a U.S.-based humanitarian organization, has partnered with FTI to renovate tempeh and tofu production facilities in Jakarta under a pilot project. Supported by technical assistance through ASA, as well as private-sector funding, FTI and Mercy Corps have upgraded tempeh village facilities, hygiene practices and production equipment. As a result, production costs at these project sites have been reduced by as much as 30 percent.

Despite Indonesia’s growing demand for soybeans, the country’s domestic production is relatively limited. In fact, more than 60 percent of the soybeans consumed in Indonesia come from the United States. U.S. soybean sales to Indonesia have grown 40 percent in the last six years, reaching a record $805 million in calendar year 2010 and making it our fifth-largest market. All of the soybeans used at the Cipayung tempeh village come from the United States.

On my visit, I watched each step in the production process, and couldn’t help but feel pride in that U.S. support has helped to improve production of a food source important to Indonesians, and that U.S. soybeans are playing such a crucial role in feeding the Indonesian people and the world.

To learn more about the Agribusiness Trade and Investment Mission to Indonesia, visit our website.

7 Responses to “U.S. Soybeans Benefit Indonesian Tempeh and Tofu Producers”

  1. John Lindblom says:

    Excellent story! Indonesia is the 5th largest global market for US soybeans. All go into food and most into tempeh. The preference for US soybeans begins at the level of these small scale producers. Work with them to help them develop and grow is essential to maintaining that preference and a healthy export market for US soybeans. This is a cooperative effort in which the FAS plays an important role. Thank you for your support. John Lindblom, Regional Director ASAIM

  2. Buggy Ridge Farms says:

    We’re these soybeans non-GMO?

  3. Gunnar Lynum says:

    Indonesia use GMO soybeans for tempeh.

  4. Dr. Tempe says:

    It is a shame that senior US diplomats, Aid Officials and apparently highly educated professionals quoted in this report cannot see the short-sightedness of trying to dominate the Indonesian tempe and tofu market with American soybeans. Developmment in Indonesia’s agricultural sector has collapsed due to the importation of competitive crops that, in the case of soybeans, has made Indonesian farmers totally unable to compete for market share and has contributed to turning a 90% agricultural economy into poverty. Anyone with a basic education in economics and development (clearly not those seeing US$ for Americans) know that you need to provide farmers with incentives, investiment in basic rural agricultural infrastructure and pricing policies to stimulate the DOMESTIC soybean market, not get rid of surplus 2 year old stock from Iowa farmers so they can buy more gas for their SUVs. INdonesia has a weak and corrupt government. Its people are starving and getting poorer. If the US wants to help, then 1. invest in the agricultural sector 2. Help improve domestic soybean quality so it can be used in the tempe and tofu industry and subsidise the farmers as the Indoneisan Ministry of Agriculture has failed to do so. INdonesia has 16 traditional (Non-GMO) varieties oif soybeans that are thousands of years old and some very experienceed plant breeders in research institutes. I don’t Monsanto would understand the science though as they don’t add to the revenue of the US economy.

  5. amanda says:

    Completely agree with Dr. Tempe, look what happened (and is still happening) in India.
    US subsidies come in, compete with native farmers, put them out of business – they can’t even feed their own families anymore. The suicide rate increases dramatically.
    Not to mention with GMOs, they will begin to start relying even more heavily on imports as the seeds only have one growing season.
    Very sad if Indonesia lets GMO seeds contaminate their native crop supply.
    It is, however, creating a bigger market for organic farming industry – which doesn’t help the locals as much as the foreigners who run the farms and can afford the higher priced crop.

  6. Jeremiah says:

    I am a third generation soybean farmer and owned a large scale tofu, soymilk, and tempeh company in the U.S. I am now living on Bali. I am sitting here eating tempeh as I write this. I am interested in better understanding and supporting the local markets, growing local varieties, and supplying non-GMO and certified organic soybeans to Indonesian producers. Dr. Tempeh, Amanda or anyone interested in pursuing these ideas please contact me

  7. Wanna be the solution says:

    Jeremiah….how can I contact you?…and discuss how to start addressing this issue and also interested to be part of the solution to the industry especially in Indonesia…I am Indonesian and currently live in the US. Indonesia still relies heavily on soy imports and price is dependent on local currency exchange to the dollar which makes it very vulnerable to a so-called cheap source of food/ protein…I want to get involved.

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