They will make their voices heard in an online survey organised by the European Commission, launched on 19 February and running until 23 March, asking plant protein suppliers, processors and distributors how to boost EU protein meal production. “The aim is to produce a detailed report on the state of play and possible future measures by the end of 2018,” the Commission said.
Action is needed as, according to the EU Protein Balance Sheet (2016-2017), only 27 out of 45 million tonnes of crude protein consumed in Europe are produced in Europe, EU vegetable oil and protein meal industry association FEDIOL’s director general Nathalie Lecocq told GlobalMeatNews.
Jean –Luc Mériaux, secretary-general of the European Livestock and Meat Trading Union (UECBV - l’Union Européenne du Commerce du Bétail et des Métiers de la Viande), said his members would keep a close eye on this developing policy and related programmes. “Of course, the meat industry is concerned by the EU protein strategy as it will be part of the future of EU livestock production and will contribute to the security of supplies,” he said.
EU farm body Copa-Cogeca’s secretary-general Pekka Pesonen agreed, saying developing protein crops would contribute to the EU Common Agriculture Policy’s (CAP’s) main objective to maintain food security, and was essential as the EU “relies on around 80% of its protein needs through soybean imports”.
He added: “Protein production needs to be further enhanced by providing producers with the right support and tools to produce protein crops cost-effectively. Research and development also needs to be stepped up and genetic breeding techniques improved.”
Pesonen told GlobalMeatNews that “a broad and diversified access to feed ingredients” was crucial to keep the EU feed and livestock industry competitive. He stressed that pulses currently accounted for around 2.5 million hectares of EU arable land, saying this helped to “ensure quality feed supplies for animals”, as well as benefiting biodiversity and improving soil quality, he added.
There was concern about future rapeseed production, however, with Copa-Cogeca and FEDIOL urging the Commission to maintain support for rapeseed meal production. The sector’s viability was being threatened by proposals to reform the EU’s renewable energy directive, which would tell member states to limit the amount of rapeseed and other edible crops that can be used to make biofuels, argued FEDIOL’s Lecocq. “The Commission’s renewable energy proposal would trigger the loss of a highly valuable source of high protein-containing feed and an essential source of revenue,” she warned.
Lecocq said more than 11 million tonnes of protein-rich meals, mainly from rapeseed, were related to biodiesel production, and henceforth available for animal feed production. “Thanks to local rapeseed production for biofuels, this has helped reduce by 13% the EU’s dependency on imported proteins – notably from soybean meal.
“Out of the 29.4 million tonnes of protein-rich soybean meal used for feed in Europe in 2016/2017, only 1.5 million tonnes were produced from EU-grown soybeans,” she added.