A new era dawning for European feed

by Suzi Fraser Dominy
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Hans Noordenbos, president of Victam International, reflects on the changing European feed industry and his expectations for this year’s show

On graduation from the University of Wageningen with an engineering degree (Ir.) in animal nutrition, physiology and economics, Hans K. Noordenbos began his career in animal feed in 1968 when he joined the premix company, Farmix, now Trouw Nutrition Nederland, part of the Nutreco group, as technical manager. By the beginning of 1977 he had risen to the position of managing director. In 1983 he joined Orffa, part of the Schouten Group, a leading international distributor of feed additives and special raw materials. Initially he was the managing director of Orffa Netherland but from 1990 he also held the position of managing director of Orffa International.

Noordenboos took over the reins of Victam as President in 2001 after his retirement from Orffa, where he is still retained by the company as a consultant.

WG: Please give us a little background on the Victam organization: when was it formed, how is it organized, and how has it developed over the years?

Noordenbos: Victam was created as a foundation in 1964, and its origins were to organize an exhibition for suppliers to the animal feed industries and related sectors. This show has now evolved into the world-renowned Victam International exhibition, which is held in Utrecht, The Netherlands every three years. Victam has also organized events for the industry in China, Thailand, U.K., Eastern Europe and elsewhere in the world. Latterly these events have been broadened so as to encompass the related industry sectors for flour milling and grain processing.

The foundation also encourages activities with technical seminars, conferences and study tours, as well as student exchanges, research programs and so on. Victam also supports the industry and millers’ associations throughout Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa.

The foundation’s daughter company — Victam International BV, based in Nijkerk, The Netherlands — has a Board that comprises respected members from throughout the animal feed industry. The Board is further assisted by a Technical Advisory Committee, which is composed of senior executives from prominent companies that supply ingredients or technology to the feed and grain processing industries.

WG: This Victam will coincide with the accession of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia to the European Union. Do you expect this to impact visitor and exhibitor profiles at Victam?

Noordenbos: When evaluating the visitor registrations from our 2001 show, it was apparent that the number of visitors from Eastern Europe had grown significantly. This was due to a number of different reasons — better communications, easier traveling, improved economic climate, inward investment and a desire from within the industry to evaluate the latest technology available. We expect that for 2004 there will be a further improvement on visitors from these increasingly important markets.

WG: How do you think the feed industry will be affected by the addition of 10 new member states to the E.U.?

Noordenbos: Victam has always had close cooperation within Eastern Europe, as evidenced through our series of East/West conferences. Now that many of these countries are becoming members of the expanded European Union, I think that the feed industry will welcome new partners from within these new member countries and that our business will intensify.

The growth of agriculture will continue and the feed industry in these countries will expand at a greater rate than that of Western Europe. Already one sees Western companies investing significantly in Eastern Europe, particularly Poland and Hungary and now the Baltic States are looking increasingly important.

The boom within agriculture will have a knock-on effect: feed mills will be modernized and enlarged; better raw materials and additives will improve feed quality. The whole of the industry within Europe will be far more competitive.

WG: The last Victam International, in 2001, was postponed from May to November, because of the epidemic foot and mouth disease that was rampaging across European farms. How has the European livestock sector recovered since then and how is this translating into feed demand?

Noordenbos: The European livestock sector has recovered to a large extent, although one sees greater competition in poultry from South America and Asia, particularly Thailand. Total feed production in the E.U. will slowly increase but with a greater emphasis on Eastern and Southern Europe.

WG: The European feed industry is facing another barrage of new regulation in the areas of food safety and ingredient approvals. What are the main challenges of compliance?

Noordenbos: The main challenge for the feed industry is to provide the world’s growing populations with an abundance of safe edible food. The world’s population is growing, but then generally so is their standard of living and so people can pay for improved food production. For animal feed production this means the use of quality raw materials and traceability — and I believe this is the key element in the future successful development of our industry.

WG: Do you think these changes will spur feed ingredient and technology development? What would the feed industry like to see from the suppliers?

Noordenbos: There has and always will be a need for improvement in the composition of feeds, meaning an improved balance between feed composition and the demands of the animal so that excesses in certain elements can be excluded.

There will be a greater interest in ingredients that will influence the health of the consumer. Good examples of these are (ingredients with) low fats and unsaturated fatty acids.

There are a number of areas that are impacting suppliers, some of these are due to new regulations and others are within the production process.

Contamination is an important area. Newly introduced regulations mean that the compounder has to look at his production line to ensure that it is a "clean" process. He has to ensure that there is no residue from previous batches that will be inadvertently introduced into new batches. Spillage and dust contamination must be controlled, and here again, improvements in technology and design will assist the miller and ensure that improved traceability is not impaired.

Environmental and safety concerns must also be met. Dust and odor emissions have to be controlled, the days of releasing dust filled air and noxious smells into the environment have gone. Plants now have to have safety certificates for anywhere where a build up of dust could literally have an explosive effect.

A further environmental consideration is energy consumption. Technology needs to be introduced to give greater energy efficiency within the process line. This will assist in the overall environmental impact and of course improve a mill’s operating performance, create greater efficiency and so reduce feed prices.

There would be substantial benefits for the miller if further technology was available that would protect important and expensive additives. Vitamins and enzymes when added within the process line can be destroyed or impaired, especially if over-heated; further developments here could be a great help.

Particle size of mash is another area where new technology could help, and improvements in pelleting techniques are always welcome.

WG: Probably the phrase on most people’s lips this year is "Identity Preservation." Do you believe the feed industry will be able to meet the requirement to track all ingredients — not just GMOs — from field to fork?

Noordenbos: As mentioned earlier traceability will become increasingly important, and I personally think the industry can deliver on this demand. Unfortunately we cannot control everything, and as in life, we cannot exclude all risks. The advantage of efficient traceability is that when the exception occurs, then we should be able to quickly identify the source of the problem and take appropriate measures to correct the problem.

WG: If there was one complaint about the last Victam, it was that the self-registration system using the computers in the lobby of Jaarbeurs just couldn’t cope with the volume of traffic. Have you made any improvements or changes to this year’s registration system?

Noordenbos: We realized at the 2001 show that the visitor registration system was inadequate for visitors coming to both ours and the VIV event. For 2004 we have a new tried and tested system, and this should ensure that there will not be similar problems to those encountered in 2001.

With the new system, visitors can simply log on to our website (www.victam.com) and pre-register free of charge. Each pre-registrant will receive a bar code, this is brought to the on-site registration desks at the show where the visitor will receive his/her entrance badge.

A new introduction for this year is that each visitor will also receive vouchers for free coffee within the exhibition area.

WG: With all the trade shows around the world, and finite travel budgets, why should visitors come to Victam?

Noordenbos: It is true there are many shows around the world and that budgets are under pressure, but the Victam International 2004 show from May 11 to 13 in Utrecht is a must! It is not only the biggest feed/flour/grain processing show in the world but it also has an important contribution from feed ingredient and additive suppliers. The event, which comprises both a trade show and technical conference, is also held only every three years, so it is a long time coming again if you miss it.

Despite the economic dips of 2002-03, the exhibition is now fully booked with virtually all the major suppliers exhibiting, many with new products.

Visitors who pre-register through our website can survey all three days of the event and see the very best in technology and additive development. The show will also feature exhibitors displaying the latest technology in aquafeed, petfoods, biomass and dust explosion prevention.

And of course Utrecht is a wonderful area to visit and enjoy in the spring.

WG: Thank you. We wish the Victam 2004 show every success.