According to the SIGAR report, the program’s main processing plant could produce soy products such as animal feed, oil and flour. The plant needed to produce mostly soy flour to remain economically profitable, the report said.
For the main soybean processing facility to operate at full capacity, farmers need to harvest 5,000 to 5,500 tons of soybeans. In the 2013 harvest season, farmers were able to produce only 177 tons, according to the American Soybean Association’s midterm report released in February.
To make up for the deficiency in Afghan soy, 4,400 tons of American soy were flown to Afghanistan at a cost of $2 million.
Farmers were given inadequate training, with short and inconvenient hours, before they were sent to sow their crops, according to the report. They received an instruction manual at the end of the session, even though many are illiterate.
Many of the farmers simply ate the seeds and used the fertilizer on other crops. Those who did plant soy experienced such low crop yields that they were discouraged from trying again.
Additionally, there isn’t enough evidence to prove that domestically produced soybeans are any cheaper than imported ones, according to the midterm report.
“Production data from reliable sources do not demonstrate that locally produced soy can be more profitable than alternative crops, or that soy can be locally sourced at contract prices that are cheaper than importation.”
After all these efforts, it turns out that Afghanistan has little demand for soy.
“Afghans don’t like the taste of bread made with soybean flour,” program managers told SIGAR.
The project did make significant strides in its humanitarian efforts, however.
During the winter of the first year of the project, the American Soy Association distributed 88 tons of defatted soy flour to 5,000 vulnerable, pregnant or lactating women and their families, USDA officials said.
Each family received 8.8 pounds of soy flour per month for four months, an average of three-quarters of an ounce of soy flour per person per day. The humanitarian benefits fall significantly short of the taxpayer costs, which continue to pile up in the effort to reconstruct war-torn Afghanistan.
As of March 2013, the U.S. had spent about $92 billion on reconstruction, agriculture and other development projects, according to SIGAR.