Togo Remains the First Organic Soybeans Exporter to the EU
Reading time: 2 minutes
The EU imports nearly 90 percent of the Soybeans it consumes domestically, primarily for animal feed. The EU is highly dependent on Soybean imports to meet its protein demand. Soybeans produced in European member states represent only 1.7 percent of the cultivated surface. Nevertheless, interest in the crop is increasing, and European area under Soybean cultivation has almost tripled in ten years.
Soybeans play a minor role in European agriculture. Only 2.7 million tons of Soybeans were produced in the EU in 2020/2021, while global production reached 369 million tons. The European Commission estimated the local annual demand for plant protein at 27 million tons, of which 93 percent was required for animal feed and only 0.15 percent for human consumption, as plant-based diets have a limited impact on European consumption figures.
However, the EU aims to close the local protein gap while reducing imported carbon and deforestation. The European Commission issued a plant protein strategy (European Commission, 2018) to reduce Europe’s dependency on protein imported from overseas, most of which comes from Brazil, the United States, and Argentina (Soybean meal). Key objectives of this strategy are to make cultivation of Soybean and other protein crops in Europe more profitable, competitive, to expand crop rotation, and to meet the growing demand for regionally produced products.
Several Member states (MS), including France, Belgium, Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia, have implemented support programs and set targets for plant-based proteins and nitrogen-fixing crops, leading to mixed results. One success story is the Danube Soya Initiative, which was created in 2012 and is comprised of 11 European countries in the Danube region. Its goal is to increase the share of regionally produced GE-free feed. Its stakeholders introduced a new certification standard called “Europe Soya” in 2016 with similar goals. According to the Danube Soya Initiative, ten percent of the GE-free European soy harvest was “Donau Soja” certified in MY 2021/22.
While wet conditions at harvest and incidental cold spells are the critical challenges for extending European Soybean production, droughts, and heat waves will become the dominant limitations. Projections suggest a substantial increase in the Soybean production area and productivity in Central Europe, while Southern European production will become increasingly dependent on irrigation. With stable areas, Italy remains the leading Soybean producer of the EU, followed by France and Romania.
The increase in Soybean planted area in the EU is fueled by various factors, including high commodity prices, increased public demand for local non-GM soy, and limited access to fertilizers. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 caused significant disruption in grain markets. The war also sparked a global mineral fertilizer crisis, and European countries rely heavily on fertilizers imports due to limited local availability of essential inputs. Soybean is less nitrogen fertilizer dependent than other crops, such as rapeseed.
Soybean Trade in the EU
The European Union is a net Soybean and Soybean product importer. Depending on availability, the EU’s main Soybean suppliers are Brazil, the United States, and Canada. In MY 2021/22 and for the second year in a row, Togo remained Europe’s first exporter of organic Soybeans.
Leading importers in the EU are the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and Italy. These four countries are also the primary crushers. While producing few Soybeans (except for Italy, the leading producer), their crushing facilities are essential to the local feed and oil market. According to AgFlow data, Spain imported 1.5 million tons of Soybeans from Brazil in Jan-Apr 2023, followed by the United States (51,817 tons) and Ukraine (21,100 tons). Feed demand is driving the EU Soybean market. However, most member states (MS) report decreasing livestock numbers and, subsequently, imports of Soybeans and Soybean meal year after year.
Other sources: USDA
Try AgFlow Free
Access Free On Updates for Corn, Wheat, Soybean,
Barley, and Sunflower Oil.
No Credit Card Required & Unlimited Access In Time