The charter, said FEFAC, outlines five key ambitions for how the EU feed sector can contribute to the development of more sustainable livestock and aquaculture value chains.
Asbjørn Børsting, FEFAC President, and Katrien D’hooghe, MD of the co-host of the congress, the Belgian Feed Association (BFA), claim the actions and commitments outlined in the charter match the specific goals that were set out for the EU livestock and aquaculture sectors under the EU Green Deal.
The digitally livestreamed event featured a panel discussion between representatives of the European Commission, Copa-Cogeca, Lidl Belgium, Danish Crown, and the WWF on the Green Deal and market expectations for the European livestock and feed industries.
Michael Scannell, deputy DG for Agriculture and Rural Development at the European Commission, said while FEFAC’s charter is going in the right direction, uncertainties remain, primarily in relation to certification around soy imports. Consumers need confirmation that these animal feed protein sources come from sustainable sources, and full traceability systems are required, he stressed.
“We currently import almost a quarter of our protein needs. That is not going to change in the short to medium term, but something that needs to be addressed immediately is the compatibility of these imports with our goals on deforestation and damage to forests. Our consumers, civil society needs guarantees that these imports are not undermining our overall global objectives on climate change mitigation.
"The feed industry needs to up its game in this particular area,” said Scannell.
Pekka Pesonen, secretary general of the EU farmers’ lobby, Copa-Cogeca, raised the heated topic of European farmers being under tremendous pressure to be more sustainable while, at the same time, enjoying dwindling public support.
Food security and economic competitiveness had to remain top of mind for the European agriculture sector going forward, he stressed. Meeting the high protein requirements of European pig and poultry farmers with domestic protein sources is currently not cost effective, he added.
Clear policy on legal and illegal deforestation sought
Philippe Weiler, head of sustainability at Lidl Belgium and Luxemburg, said FEFAC's sustainability charter is a fantastic initiative, but the commitments outlined in it are too “soft” and they need to be translated into concrete actions.
The Danish Crown representative did not hold back. “FEFAC is falling behind in the eyes of our customers and NGOs on its commitments, and, therefore, for us to continue supporting FEFAC, we need it to [carry out] urgent action,” said Preben Sunke, COO of that cooperative.
Sustainable soy is very high on Danish Crown’s agenda, he added.
Sunke said FEFAC is currently not fully recognized by northern European NGOs and governments as having a clear policy on legal or illegal deforestation.
“For FEFAC to remain relevant and enjoy credibility as an organization that truly supports sustainability, I would strongly recommend it to listen even more to NGOs and consumers going forward,” he continued.
Consumers, large retailers and food service companies want third-party certification, traceability in the soy supply chain, said the COO.
FEFAC needs to implement an unambiguous and broadly recognized deforestation policy as soon as possible, initiate a physical soy supply chain by 2025 and communicate more aggressively in the mainstream press.
The task of ensuring responsible soy products is complex and challenging and one that requires collaboration across the supply chain, acknowledged Sunke.
Working together, in the manner in which stakeholders were debating the issues at the event today, could give voice to European concerns and send a strong message to suppliers of soy, he said. "We at Danish Crown want to contribute and take our share of the responsibility but we need FEFAC to move on this as well.”
An explainer on the FEFAC Sustainability Charter 2030 can be accessed here.
Responding to the panel debate, the FEFAC President said it was good to hear from important stakeholders about what their concerns and priorities were. He moved to assure them today was only “the beginning of a journey of measurable progress.”
“We need to be open and to listen, we have been waiting for our customers to be more specific in their demands, and it seems like they now doing so,” Børsting told reporters in a press conference that followed the congress.
FEFAC recognizes, he said, that a deforestation-free soy supply chain is a key priority for our industry. “We’re working hard on the upgrading of the Soy Sourcing Guidelines to facilitate a mainstream market solution to achieve that goal,” said Børsting.
Meanwhile, BFA President, Dirk van Thielen, outlined how both FEFAC and the BFA are committed to stepping up the action to reduce GHG emissions like methane, upscale the use of co-products, tackle deforestation and reduce antimicrobial resistance.