Dilemma and Outlook of the Prote in Feed Market in the European Union

Popp, József – Fári, Miklós – Antal, Gabriella – Harangi-Rákos, Mónika

Keywords: feedstuff, consumption of soybean and soybean meal, protein yield, Q13

Sixty per cent of the protein-rich feedstuffs consumed in the European Union (EU) are imported for which there are no substitutes in the short term. The self-sufficiency of soybean and soybean meal is only around 3%. Soybean meal is highly valuable in terms of lysine supply, contributing 46% of the overall lysine supply. Therefore, soybean meal has an approximately 13% share in EU farmers’ feed, but contributes 34% to proteins and supplies 46% of the lysine. For climatic and agronomic reasons, the EU is unable to produce most of the oilseed meal and other protein-rich feedstuffs required to feed its livestock. Protein-rich soybean meal is needed by EU livestock producers in achieve a balanced diet for their animals, especially as far as protein is concerned. Even with the increased production of protein crops such as field peas, field beans and sweet lupins to provide alternatives to soybean, at most they could replace only around 20% of EU imports of soybeans and soybean meal. Without an adequate supply of these feed ingredients, the EU’s livestock production will lose competitiveness and European livestock producers will lose market share. The EU imports soybeans and soybean meal from the large soybean producing and exporting countries –Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and the USA – where the adoption rate of genetically modified (GM) soybean has reached between 89 and 99% and represents 80 to 90% of global production and exports of soybean and soybean meal. No real alternatives exist to imports from the large producing and exporting countries since South East Asian countries are major markets of Indian soybean meal. The EU imports about 10% of the soybean and 30% of the soybean meal available in the world market. With the increasing export share of soybean to China (65% of the global trade) the importance of the EU market and EU requirements for the major soybean exporter countries is declining over time and it is becoming increasingly difficult and costly to maintain a non-GM supply chain in the EU.
The import of soybean and soybean meal for EU livestock production has become the subject of an intense political discussion. Replacement of soybean and soybean meal imports with domestic pulses production on the ecological focus areas is supported by the Common Agricultural Policy. The question arises as to how pulses, for example peas with an average protein content of 22.1%, can replace soybean, which contains 36% protein. An average of 1.6 ha of peas cultivated in the EU would be needed to replace 1 ha of soybeans produced in Brazil. However, peas replace other crops and their protein output too, for example wheat. On average, 1 ha of pea can replace 1 ha of wheat produced in the EU and 2 ha of wheat cultivated in other parts of the world where on average only half of the EU’s yield per hectare can be achieved. In order to replace wheat production of 1.6 ha in the EU, twice the area would have to be cultivated elsewhere in the world. This means that of 3.2 ha of wheat is required in order to replace 1 ha of soybeans in Brazil. Within the “greening” framework, 7% of agricultural area has to be taken out of production, however, the cultivation of legumes on this areas is allowed. A reduction of the wheat acreage in favour of pulses would reduce the EU’s export potential, meaning other production regions around the world would have to fill this gap in production. As a result the EU would cease to be a net exporter of wheat and lose its role as a reliable supplier of grain, in particular to North African countries. The situation in Hungary is not different from that in the rest of the EU. Hungary imports 90% of its soybean meal consumption from Brazil and Argentina. According to experts, due to the greening and extra support the cultivation of soybean may increase from the current 40 thousand hectares to a maximum of 100 thousand hectares, contributing to half of the country’s need of soybean meal. Another option is the production and use of protein leaf concentrates as a potential source of animal feed.