EU protein deficit a serious issue
Did you price soya bean meal lately? How much were you quoted? Maybe €430/t, maybe more? Between December 2011 and April this year, at a time when other commodity prices were falling, the global price of soya jumped by almost one quarter. And when soya jumps it pulls up the prices of other proteins along with it.
We are told that the spike in price is due to droughts in South America, or even North America. The very latest on this is that future soya prices have eased a little with rain in the 2012 US soya fields.
But the bottom line remains. Ireland and the EU are both woefully deficient in protein feeds and especially in soya. Right across the globe, soya is the Rolls Royce of proteins for both livestock and human nutrition, but the EU is almost totally dependent on imports. Of late, competition for stocks has intensified with China muscling in to gobble up the world's scarce supplies.
The European Parliament recently addressed the issue of the EU protein deficit. A special report was issued following the debate.
This report concluded that the EU has to import 70pc of its feed protein and that the deficit is growing. Only 3pc of the EU's arable ground is used for growing protein crops. In particular, only 2pc of the EU's soya consumption is grown within the EU.
The report attributed the lack of protein crops in the EU to the Common Agricultural Policy of former decades which allowed tariff-free protein imports, while other EU-grown grains were protected.
Other interests, too, are focusing on the EU protein deficit. In April, a report from a French study (which included farmer groups) concluded that the EU should step up research on protein crops and incentivise local protein crop production with a coupled payment.
In January, the Green Party in Germany linked soya imports with deforestation and "land grabbing across the globe with our knives and forks". In addition to incentivising home production of alternative proteins the Greens want a tax on soya imports.