Proteins: MEPs urge robust strategy to reduce EU’s dependency on imports
- EU’s farming policy to encourage production of protein crops at home
- EU imports to be diversified, focused more on the EU’s neighbourhood
- More research into increasing profitability and yields of protein crops
EU must do its utmost to increase and improve protein crops production at home and diversify imports from abroad, the European Parliament said on Tuesday.
To this end, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) must be updated to make cultivation of soya and other grain protein crops more profitable and competitive, says the non-legislative resolution on the future EU strategy for the promotion of protein crops, which the European Parliament approved by 542 votes in favour to 33 against, with 109 abstentions.
- voluntary coupled payments for all protein crops in all regions, not only for those in difficulty,
- protein production also on ecological focus areas - for both conventional and organic farming, and
- a leguminous component for rotation systems on arable land.
Nitrogen-fixing protein crops can help farmers cut usage of synthetic nitrogenous fertilisers and thus reduce both, their input costs and negative impact on the environment, note MEPs adding that the future EU’s farming policy should take this into account.
The CAP should also aim to:
- develop local and regional protein production and processing chains,
- support greater self-sufficiency of farms with animal feed and adapt the animals’ diets to their real needs - e.g. grass fodder instead of soya meal for ruminants, and
- cut waste by improving harvesting, storage and processing systems, and by making greater use of precision agriculture to adjust plant and animal feed inputs.
MEPs want first to establish an EU platform supported by the European arable crops market observatory to identify protein cultivation areas, determine protein production capabilities and catalogue all research done so far on proteins. The EU should then heavily invest into integrated and targeted research to make protein crops more economically attractive and their production more competitive and to increase their yields.
Importing less and focusing more on the EU’s neighbourhood
MEPs criticised soya production in South America for being a major factor behind land use change, deforestation, soil erosion and pesticides’ contamination. The future EU protein strategy must reduce the Union’s major deficit in vegetable proteins, which makes its livestock sector dependant on feed imports from third countries, they say.
The EU’s autonomy in soya and other proteins’ supply can be achieved through closer cooperation with Union’s neighbours and diversification of protein imports, says the approved text. But the imports must meet the EU’s social and environmental standards and should preferably be GMO-free, MEPs say.
“After the signature of the European Soya Declaration by most EU member states, MEPs are today sending a strong message to the European Commission: we urgently need an ambitious plan to increase protein production in Europe and reduce thus our dependence on imports of soya and other protein products from third countries”, said rapporteur Jean-Paul Denanot (S&D, FR).
“This strategy needs to build upon successful regional and national experiences in Europe. Today we proposed a robust plan to increase protein production in the EU. The European Parliament is now waiting for the Commission's report by the end of 2018, which could trigger follow-up actions. We need strong legislative measures with clear incentives for farmers in place as soon as possible”, he added.
The EU is suffering from a major deficit in vegetable proteins, which are used to feed the livestock, and is dependent on imports from third countries. The European production of protein-rich matter rose from 24.2 to 36.3 million tonnes between 1994 and 2014, but at the same time the consumption increased from 39.7 million tonnes to 57.1 million tonnes, increasing thus the Union’s overall deficit from 15.5 to 20.8 million tonnes.
The EU Commission is expected to develop the EU’s strategy on tackling Union’s deficit in plant proteins and reducing its dependency on protein imports by the end of 2018.
Type of document: Non-legislative resolution