Europe suffers from a chronic high dependence on imported protein from America; in fact, we import over 70% of our needs from there. The dominance of cereals in European arable farming, combined with the import of large quantities of soya beans and soybean meal, enable self-sufficiency. However, our protein problem, among other things, will worsen as the cost of our soya dependency becomes more and more expensive. The solution is to increase protein production within the EU. On the other hand, we should also take into account the fact that cultivating protein crops would make an important contribution to the sustainable development of European agricultural and food systems. Our plant proteins are, more than ever, an opportunity for future generations.
What does the Commission intend to do in order to encourage protein crops, seeing that costs will continue to increase and EU production will suffer accordingly?
Texte de la réponse : The European Commission confirms the relatively important volumes of soybeans (mainly from the US and Brazil) and soymeals (mainly Brazil, Argentina and the US) that the EU imports every year, total annual import volumes which amount to around 30 million tonnes. Since 2012, EU imports have benefited from continuously decreasing global prices for soya reflecting the strong competition between the main exporters. A recent increase in soya prices was observed in spring 2016 but this seems temporary as the weather conditions improved in the main producing countries and a record soya harvest is forecast for the new marketing year 2016/17.
The chronic EU protein deficit is an important issue. The current Common Agricultural Policy regulatory framework foresees various measures to support the protein crops production including soybeans. Through the Voluntary Coupled Support (VCS), the Member States may within certain limits target support to agricultural sectors, including if relevant protein crops, that face difficulties with the aim of creating an incentive to maintain current levels of production. 16 Member States selected various crops as beneficiaries of this measure. Amounts available for VCS are limited but Member States may allocate 2% more than the maximum set by the EU legislation if they use at least 2% of their Direct Payment envelope to support protein crops. Also under the ‘greening’ of direct payments, protein crops are eligible as Ecological Focus Area.
Moreover, a particular attention is given to protein crops in the EU research and innovation programme Horizon2020, through which a series of relevant research projects were or are to be funded. Finally, there is a dedicated Focus Group on ‘protein crops’ within the EIP-AGRI(1).
(1) European Innovation Partnership for Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability (ec.europa.eu/eip/agriculture/en/content/protein-crops).