Today the European Commission adopted its report on the development of plant proteins in the European Union. The report reviews the supply and demand situation for plant proteins (such as rapeseed, sunflower seeds or lentils) in the EU and explores ways in which to further develop their production in an economically and environmentally sound way.
Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan said: “Plant protein is an essential component of our European agri-food sector, which produces food and drink to the highest standards in the world. However, due to a variety of market and climatic factors, European protein crop production is not sufficient to cover the growing demand. In that regard, I also want to acknowledge the strong interest of the European Parliament in further supporting protein production in Europe. This report will serve as an important reference point for an EU-wide debate on how to chart a sustainable way forward, which cannot be done by the European Commission alone and requires the active input of all stakeholders.”
The report presents a number of existing policy instruments and new policy proposals which can contribute to realise the economic and environmental potential of protein plants in the EU. These include:
- Supporting farmers growing plant proteins via the proposed future CAP, by including them in national CAP strategic plans, in particular through rewarding the benefits of legumes for environment and climate objectives through eco-schemes and environmental/climate management commitments under rural development programmes; mobilising rural development support e.g. to stimulate investments and cooperation along the food chain; coupled income support;
- Boosting competitiveness through research & innovation from EU and Member States’ research programmes and the doubling of the budget of the Horizon Europe programme for 2021-2027;
- Improving market analysis and transparency through better monitoring tools;
- Promoting the benefits of plant protein for nutrition, health, climate and environment with the support of the Commission’s promotion programme, amounting to close to €200 million in 2019;
- Increased sharing of knowledge/best practice in supply chain management and sustainable agronomic practices through a dedicated online platform for example.
The state of play of plant proteins in the EU
There is a high demand for plant proteins in Europe, amounting to around 27 million tonnes of crude protein in 2016/2017 and the EU’s self-sufficiency rate varies substantially depending on the source (79% for rapeseed and 5% for soya, for example). As a consequence, the EU imports annually around 17 million tonnes of crude protein of which 13 million are soya based. However, there are positive trends: the soya area in the EU has doubled to almost one million hectares since the CAP reform in 2013. Similarly, in the case of pulses (field peas, faba beans, lentils, chickpeas), production has almost tripled in the EU since 2013.
While animal feed remains the most important outlet (93%), the market for plant proteins has experienced considerable segmentation, with demand in high-value feed and food sectors growing. The food market for plant proteins is seeing double-digit growth, driven by demand for meat and dairy alternatives.