Soybean’s Scorching Rally Makes This Vegan Diet Favorite Pricier

For a sign of how global soybean rally is feeding through to consumers, take a look at Indonesia.

Tofu and tempeh, mainstays in the Indonesian diet that have made their way into the vegan lifestyle, are becoming more expensive. Higher soybean prices have hurt margins of local producers and they’ve had to raise prices by about 20%, the head of an industry group said.

“Soybean prices started rising since June and we held on to small margins — but for the past two months, we’ve made no profit,” Aip Syarifuddin, chairman of the Association of Tempeh & Tofu Producers Cooperatives, said by phone.

Cheap and nutritious, tofu and tempeh are considered staples by Indonesian families who eat them with rice. Soaring prices of soybeans have made food products produced from the beans more expensive and threaten to boost inflation in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

Consumer prices rose 1.68% in December from a year ago, reaching the highest since June. While gold jewelry, chili and cooking oil were the key drivers, tempeh and tofu also contributed to the increase, said Setianto, deputy for distribution and services statistics at the Central Statistics Agency, who goes by only one name.

Soybean prices in Chicago, a global benchmark, have jumped to the highest since 2014 as demand grows and poor weather in South America weighs on crops. Chinese buying remains key to the market’s strength, as a recovery in its domestic pig population from African swine fever sent the country’s imports surging to record levels.

In Indonesia, soybean prices jumped almost 50% to 9,500 rupiah ($0.68) a kilogram in December from September-October. The country imports 70% of its needs, mostly from the U.S., said Suhanto, secretary general of the trade ministry. There’s currently about 450,000 tons of soybeans in local warehouses, enough for three months of consumption, he added.

Consumers will have to pay 13,000 to 14,000 rupiah for one kilogram of tempeh, compared with 11,000 rupiah before, Syarifuddin said. “That’s only about 1,000 rupiah more for a piece of tempeh and the same goes for tofu. We hope consumers can understand that,” he said.

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