Local and GM free demands to favor continued cultivation of protein-rich crops in EU

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Olivier Le Moal
© GettyImages/Olivier Le Moal

Related tags GM free Soybean rape meal GHG emissions Milk

EU production of soybeans and pulses will continue to grow to address feed and food demand for locally produced plant-protein products, according to the EU Commission’s outlook for EU agriculture until 2030.

EU cultivation of protein crops will reach 6.3 million tons in the medium term, forecast the publication​, which was released yesterday [December 10]. 

Alternative production and marketing systems, such as local, organic, GM-free or other types of certified production will increase over the outlook period, found the report. 

The rapeseed area is expected to continue its decline, though at a slower pace, thanks to a steady demand for rape meal and the agronomic value of rape in crop rotation systems, forecasts the Commission.

"Total EU production of oilseeds could remain stable in the medium term. The increase in demand for oilseed crushing is due to be met by additional imports, while the volume of imported meals could decline."

Despite higher competition, it sees the production of cereals as slightly increasing based on domestic feed and industrial uses, and to supply a steady global demand.

At world level, supply will grow further — mainly in developing countries — but not as fast as demand in these markets. This will create opportunities for EU exports, predicted the authors.

Health, welfare, environmental concerns 

Societal demands will continue to shape agricultural markets over the next decade, finds the report.

“People in the EU have increasingly pressing and at times conflicting expectations towards food. These expectations extend beyond food affordability to issues such as health, origin, convenience, environment, climate change and animal welfare.”

The outbreak of African Swine Fever virus (ASFv) in Asia is already strongly impacting meat markets, but the implications for the whole market over the outlook period are still uncertain, said the authors. In the short term, the significant growth in demand from the Chinese market, especially for pig meat imports, is expected to push prices up.

However, the report forecasts that, as Chinese production recovers, prices should fall, leading to a decline in domestic pig meat production.

Poultry meat dominant 

Poultry meat, though, is seen as increasing its share of total EU meat consumption. “The EU’s [poultry meat] production could reach 16.5m tons by 2030, thanks also to strong global demand. Exports will mainly consist of cuts that are less in demand in the EU.”

Although total meat consumption is expected to decline slightly.

By contrast, EU and global consumption of dairy products will continue to rise, it said. But sustainability requirements to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG), phosphate emissions and nitrates will translate into a moderate growth in EU milk production to 179m tons by 2030. 

“The sector will likely adapt farming practices, focusing notably on herd management and cows’ nutrition.  As a result, bigger yields will allow dairy herds to be reduced, and this will contribute to a reduction in emissions.”  

The reduction of EU beef production in the main producing countries is projected to continue, and EU beef consumption is expected to further decline, but new trade opportunities could lead to higher EU beef exports, maintains the report.

Bearing in mind that environmental analysis models do not account for ongoing and expected changes in farm practices, the Commission projects that GHG emissions from EU will remain at a comparable level by 2030.

“Using a life-cycle assessment approach, the analysis estimates the split of agricultural GHG emissions into farm gate emissions and post-farm gate emissions. The former includes the production of feed and other inputs such as fertilizers, while the latter accounts for additional emissions from land-use change, processing, transport, packaging and retail. The highest farm gate footprint per amount of protein is found for ruminant meat, followed by dairy products. The lowest footprint, far below the footprint from cereals, corresponds to proteins from pulses and soybeans.”

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