In a blog post on his personal website on Tuesday [August 27], he claimed that the country could end its reliance on imported soybean meal if there was expanded domestic production of fava beans [as first reported by Yle.fi].
“According to a rough estimate, with 80,000 hectares of bean production, we would be able [to end all] imports of soybean meal. This is less than 4% of Finland's arable land.”
He said it would be possible to reach the target if subsidy policies encouraged farmers to produce domestic protein.
Reform in that regard is needed.
“The terms of support for agricultural policy are just being updated for the new 2021-2027 program period, and as part of this preparation, the position of domestic protein crop production must be significantly improved,” added Leppä.
He noted that imports of soybean meal for livestock feed have risen significantly in Finland and elsewhere in the past decade. Citing concerns over the environmental impacts of imported soy from South America, the politician said alternative protein inputs for farmed animal feed should be championed.
In Finland, soybean meal is primarily used for pigs, poultry and laying hens, but not as cattle feed to any significant extent, according to the official soy policy of Finnish retail company, Kesko.
Kesko is a founding member in the Finnish soy commitment group, whose members pledge to ensure that by 2020 all the soy feed used in the production chain of their private label products will be responsibly produced, either RTRS or ProTerra certified soy. The commitment covers both the Finnish production chain and sourcing from other countries.
While soy has been a key protein source in Finland and beyond, the Finnish feed industry has long been working to increase the supply of substitute protein raw materials domestically, said the minister. The use of hulled oats, industrial by-products, peas, and oilseed rape are already helping to meet the need for animal protein in farmed animals, he said.
“Finnish cereals are also very protein-rich in themselves. Finnish milk and beef are already produced without soy.
“We are heading in the right direction when considering both climate change and changing food trends. We have immeasurable potential in these high-protein domestic crops.
“Increasing protein self-sufficiency also supports better profitability in agriculture,” added Leppä.
Leppä has been the minister of agriculture and forestry in Finland since May 2017, and a beef and dairy farmer in the South Savo region of that country since 1980. He has been an MP since 1999.