Is Soy Dependence a Threat to EU Pigs and Poultry?

EU - The future of the European Union's pig and poultry industries is threatened by its heavy reliance on imported soybeans and soybean meal, a leading UK feed compounder said yesterday.
calendar icon 29 January 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

"We are far too dependant on soy. If we are not careful we are going to export our pig and poultry industries to other countries," Hugh Burton, raw material manager for pig and poultry feed compounder ABN, a unit of Associated British Foods Plc, told a conference on Thursday.

"I think we need to look very seriously at how can we develop our pulses and rapeseed meal to compete better with soy within feed rations," he said at a conference jointly organised by the Home-Grown Cereals Authority (HGCA) and Processors and Growers Research Organisation (PGRO).

Mr Burton said the EU grows only about one million tonnes of soy and imports about 13 million tonnes of whole soybeans and a further 22.5 million tonnes of soybean meal.

"How long is that supply going to be there?" he asked, saying key suppliers such as Brazil were expanding their pig and poultry sectors, lessening the availability of soy for export.

South American producers have taken a growing share of the global soyabean market over the last few years with Brazil accounting for 25 per cent of production in 2009 and Argentina 21 per cent, compared to 19 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively, in 1994, according to USDA data.

Brazil is also the key source of the non-GMO soybeans sought by some consumers in the European Union, according to Reuters.

Mr Burton saw soyabeans as the 'king' of feed rations with protein levels significantly higher than competitors such as rapeseed, winter peas, sweet white lupins and faba beans.

He said the quality of the protein was also better with higher levels of key amino acid, lysine.

Mr Burton said the slow approval for importation by the European Union of new genetically modified varieties of soybeans posed a further challenge.

"We come to a point where we potentially put the EU at a disadvantage here in terms of what we can use as a feed by the delays in the process," he said.

There is no blanket ban on imports of GMO soybeans into the EU but each variety must be individually approved in what can be a lengthy process due to strong opposition from some members.

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