UK pig industry questions reliance on ‘blunt legislative tools’ like due diligence to ensure sustainable soy sourcing

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/AvigatorPhotographer
© GettyImages/AvigatorPhotographer

Related tags PAP Insect deforestation due diligence

The UK’s National Pig Association (NPA) has stressed the sector’s commitment to sustainable sourcing of soy, as the UK government looks to introduce new laws designed to halt agri-commodity related deforestation.

The Environment Bill is currently passing through the various stages of ratification in the UK Parliament - within that is an amendment requiring greater due diligence from businesses, making it illegal for them to use key commodities if they have not been produced in line with local laws protecting forests and other natural ecosystems.

The amendment arose out of a recent consultation​ the UK's Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) carried out with businesses and NGOs. 

Earlier this month, Defra reported that over 60,000 individuals and organisations took part in the consultation, with 99% in favour of tighter legislation. The changes mean that all large, UK-based businesses will need to prove that the ‘forest risk’ commodities they source internationally come from deforestation-free suppliers – or explain why they are unable to do so.

Defra classes soy, palm oil, cocoa, beef, leather, rubber and forest products like wood and paper as ‘forest risk’ commodities. Any businesses which do not comply will be subjected to fines. Defra has said it will set the precise level of fines in the coming months, as it wants to move swiftly to bring the Environment Bill into force.

Implications for the UK pig sector 

The NPA says that with soy to the forefront in this deforestation debate, the law could have significant implications for the UK pig sector.

It responded to Defra's consultation on the due diligence proposal, highlighting how seriously the pig sector is taking its responsibilities, but also the potential pitfalls of trying to force change through legislation.

The association noted that, over the past decade, the UK pig sector has halved the inclusion of soy in pig diets from 20% to just under 10%, by substituting rapeseed meal, peas, beans and distillers waste as sources of crude protein.

Recent figures from UK feed and crop protection industry representatives, the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), indicates that the UK pig sector uses around 358,700 tons of soybean meal yearly, equating to around 15% of the total SBM imports into the UK for use by the farmed animal industry.

The industry continues to explore alternative protein sources, such as locally sourced crops like, cereals and legumes, insect derived protein and PAPs. 

“But these are either not yet commercially available or not available in sufficient quantities to supply both pig and poultry industries. Soy is still being the most efficient source of protein available, so the focus is very much on ensuring it comes from sustainable sources,”​ said the NPA.

Ensuring a long term resilient supply of sustainable soy to the UK

There is a strong need for a coherent approach across industry, civil society, and government to ensure the long-term resilient supply of sustainable soy for the UK market and in particular to address the issue of illegal deforestation, said the pig sector representatives.

“As an industry we want to affect positive and tangible benefits on the ground in high risk areas. So, rather than using a blunt legislative tool, government could explore other ways in which it can influence positive change with industry in those countries.”

The NPA’s response stresses that while businesses should not be actively seeking to source illegally produced forest risk commodities, the degree to which forests are protected in national laws varies between countries.

“It is also true that international and company standards for commodities vary. This presents a challenge in that relevant local or national laws in some countries may not actually provide adequate protection from deforestation, with the highest risk areas requiring more robust legislative controls than others.

“The pig industry is indeed committed to sourcing sustainable forest risk commodities such as soy. However, industry alone cannot effect this tangible change.

“As stated by the Global Resource Initiative (GRI) in its Final Recommendations Report, government procurement policy is just as important and as such should stipulate that products sourced by government departments align with its policy ambitions. This consultation should be no exception.”

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