Plan to make UK soy imports free from deforestation and conversion

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Ziviani
© GettyImages/Ziviani

Related tags financial incentives soy imports AIC

The Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), which represents the animal feed industry, is set to develop a new independently verified deforestation and conversion free (vDCF) soy standard for the UK.

The head of the AIC’s Feed Sector, James McCulloch, recently joined a panel of international speakers at the Brazilian Embassy in London to lead the conversation on sustainable soy.  

Sharing a platform on November 22 with representatives of all parts of supply chains that produce, or source commodities from Brazil, he flagged the importance of all stakeholders - UK feed companies, livestock farmers, processors, and retailers - collaborating to deliver a proposed national plan to transition the UK to importing vDCF soy. He also highlighted the value of engagement with producers in origin countries in that respect.

Delivering on the aims of the UK Soy Manifesto

His talk followed an announcement earlier this month by the AIC and nearly 40 leading UK food businesses - representing nearly 60% of the UK’s soy consumption – setting out a series of comprehensive actions to deliver on the aims of the UK Soy Manifesto, with the parties focused on ensuring all soy used in feed in the UK will be vDCF.  

UK Soy Manifesto signatories​ include 38 brands, retailers, food service companies and livestock producers operating in the UK such as Tesco, Waitrose, Nando’s, KFC UK and Ireland, Lidl GB and McDonald’s UK and Ireland 

Businesses along the soy supply chain said they will take responsibility and act together.

The parties agreed to produce a quarterly soy deforestation risk register for UK soy imports, tracking the UK’s progress in the importation of DCF soy, as well as progressing a joint transition plan, coordinated by a high-level cross supply chain governance group, to monitor and review the transition, ensuring the risk and responsibilities are shared.

A key element of the transition plan will be to ensure UK companies producing and selling meat and dairy products - using soy in animal feed - have a practical mechanism to specify that they require deforestation and conversion free soy, with robust checks and controls to assure standards are met.  

The commitment from the AIC to develop a DCF soy standard for the UK, which will be independently verified, will support that goal.

Together, these actions will ensure that [UK soy manifesto] signatory companies can turn their ambitions into practical actions, supporting a mass market move to deforestation and conversion free soy use in the UK that would have been difficult to achieve even a year ago.” 

Data gathering exercise

Commenting on the plan, McCulloch said:

"The AIC Soy Supply Group commitment to providing quarterly data for a UK risk register is significant as the group is the sole source of data on what is shipped and sold to the UK as vDCF. The data helps all parties understand the progress that has been made and focuses attention and resource on areas where there is still work to be done.

“Whilst market challenges are real, our industry remains committed to delivering DCF soy and sustainable supply chains. Around the world nature is in freefall, and unsustainable agriculture is driving its catastrophic decline. To protect precious natural habitats like the Cerrado in Brazil, we must urgently ensure soy imported to the UK is not driving the destruction of nature overseas."

UK soy manifesto signatories are also calling for global markets to provide financial incentives and technical support to boost sustainable production. Earlier this year, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose invested US$11m in the Responsible Commodities Facility ​(RCF), a new system of financial incentives for farmers in Brazil who commit to DCF soy cultivation.

Ashwin Prasad, chief product officer, Tesco, said: “We’re absolutely committed to ensuring we meet our target of sourcing soy from whole areas verified as deforestation-free by 2025, and the launch of the UK Soy Manifesto last year marked a significant milestone on that journey. We’ve made good progress this year with the introduction of the RCF, which provides direct support to soy farmers in Brazil, but we can’t solve the issue alone. It’s vital we bring together retailers, brands, food service companies, livestock producers and soy traders themselves to set out a clear pathway to achieving our goal of guaranteeing all soy imported into the UK is deforestation free by 2025.”

Governments in producer and consumer countries and regions also have an important role to play, said the stakeholders. “Ensuring environmental legislation that protects ecosystems are enforced at source, and that downstream companies are obligated to undertake due diligence on their use of forest risk commodities will be key."

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