Cereal Docks is one of Europe’s largest private soybean crushers, processing over 5,000 tons of soy a day, 60% of which is made from imported soybeans and 40% from non-GMO local production, in two different crushing plants to avoid contamination.
It said it can now assure its clients that the GMO soybean meal, oils and lecithin produced at its Marghera plant and destined for feed, food and biofuel supply chains come from soybeans obtained as a result of responsible production practices.
The RTRS chain of custody certificate is valid for five years with annual surveillance audits.
“We just got the certification at the start of October. We are the first soy crushing factory in Europe to do this,” Giorgio Dalla Bona, managing director, Cereal Docks International, the group’s business unit focused on international trading for agricultural raw materials, told us.
Crushing volumes at Cereal Docks
The group crushes 850,000 tons of GMO soybeans on an annual basis, sourced from North and South America.
It processes 400,000 tons of non-GMO soybeans in the main from Italy, but also some beans sourced from Eastern Europe. The non-GMO plant also crushes around 100,000 tons of sunflower seeds and rapeseed a year.
In terms of organic market production, it processes around 50,000 tons of soy, rapeseed and sunflower derived products annually.
The group received the RTRS certification only after a comprehensive auditing process at the factory. The company’s investment of €75m to renovate the Marghera plant between 2013 and 2016, installing state-of-the-art technology, helped, said Giacomo Fanin, who is business developer at the Cereal Docks Group and part of the family that owns the company.
“In the commodity-driven business, it is not so easy to differentiate, so certifications such as RTRS or ProTerra or Donau Soja can give a crusher a competitive advantage in the marketplace,” he added.
“The Italian retailers are not demanding sustainable soy supply chains yet, we don’t see the same pressure coming from retailers in Southern Europe that we see from retailers in Northern Europe. But we think Italian retailers will exert such pressure in the future, and we want to be ready for that,” said Dalla Bona.
Cereal Docks sources non-GMO soy, sunflower, and rapeseed directly from local farmers for processing in a plant in Camisano Vicentino, which is between Verona and Venice, and that facility is accredited to various voluntary certification schemes including Donau Soja, ProTerra, and Europe Soya. That site serves customers in southern Germany, Switzerland, Austria and France that prefer such non-GMO products.
It also has a processing plant, south of Verona, that supplies soy, rapeseed and sunflower derived products for organic feed and food production.
The largest facility, by volume, is its GMO soybean crushing plant in Marghera, which it acquired from a multinational in 2011. As its other plants were already well ahead of the game in terms of alignment with sustainable purchasing schemes, Cereal Docks wanted to get the Marghera plant certified for responsible sourcing as well, said Dalla Bona.
“The largest platform of certification is RTRS. When we buy in Brazil now, we only buy RTRS certified soybeans,” he said.
Cereal Docks buys soybeans directly from RTRS certified Brazilian originators, said Dalla Bona. It tends to source under the RTRS Mass Balance scheme.
The Marghera plant does not only source RTRS certified beans: “That GMO crushing facility can be supplied by any origin soybean, so we can go to the US, Canada as well as Brazil or Paraguay,” said Dalla Bona, who added that US soybeans are certified sustainable under schemes such as the US Soybean Sustainability Assurance Protocol (SSAP).
Other origin soybeans, like those from Argentina and Uruguay, do not contain protein at a high enough level to meet the requirement of European poultry producers, focused on fast growing birds, so Cereal Docks does not tend to source from that country, he added.
The trade war though has meant the group, in recent months, has been forced to buy more US and Canada origin soy than Brazil and Paraguay origin soy, with China taking the bulk of that.
Therefore, due to that kind of volatility in the market, the Cereal Docks’ representatives said it can be challenging to put a number on the amount of volumes of RTRS certified soy from Brazil that it will likely process on an annual basis.
During 2019, prior to it acquiring RTRS certification, it processed about two shipments from Brazil. The processor is scheduled to bring in two cargoes of RTRS certified soy from Brazil in February 2020, confirmed Dalla Bona.