BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — The European Commission adopted its report on the development of plant proteins in the European Union (E.U.). The report reviews the supply and demand situation for plant proteins in the E.U. and explores ways in which to further develop production in an economically and environmentally sound way.

“Plant protein is an essential component of our European agri-food sector, which produces food and drink to the highest standards in the world,” said Phil Hogan, commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Development. “However, due to a variety of market and climatic factors, European protein crop production is not sufficient to cover the growing demand. In that regard, I also want to acknowledge the strong interest of the European Parliament in further supporting protein production in Europe. This report will serve as an important reference point for an E.U.-wide debate on how to chart a sustainable way forward, which cannot be done by the European Commission alone and requires the active input of all stakeholders.”

The report presents a number of existing policy instruments and new policy proposals that can contribute to realize the economic and environmental potential of protein plants in the E.U. These include:

• Supporting farmers growing plant proteins via the proposed future CAP, by including them in national CAP strategic plans, in particular through rewarding the benefits of legumes for environment and climate objectives through eco-schemes and environmental/climate management commitments under rural development programs; mobilizing rural development support e.g. to stimulate investments and cooperation along the food chain; coupled income support;

• Boosting competitiveness through research and innovation from E.U. and Member States’ research programs and the doubling of the budget of the Horizon Europe program for 2021-2027;

• Improving market analysis and transparency through better monitoring tools;

• Promoting the benefits of plant protein for nutrition, health, climate and environment with the support of the Commission’s promotion program, amounting to close to €200 million in 2019; and

• Increased sharing of knowledge/best practice in supply chain management and sustainable agronomic practices through a dedicated online platform for example.

According to the E.U. Commission, there is a high demand for plant proteins in Europe, amounting to around 27 million tonnes of crude protein in 2016-17 and the E.U.’s self-sufficiency rate varies substantially depending on the source. As a consequence, the E.U. imports annually around 17 million tonnes of crude protein, of which 13 million tonnes are soy-based. There are positive trends, though. The soy area in the E.U. has doubled to almost one million hectares since the CAP reform in 2013. Similarly, in the case of pulses, production has almost tripled in the E.U. since 2013.

“While animal feed remains the most important outlet (93%), the market for plant proteins has experienced considerable segmentation, with demand in high-value feed and food sectors growing,” the E.U. Commission said. “The food market for plant proteins is seeing double-digit growth, driven by demand for meat and dairy alternatives.”

This report is intended to meet the Commission’s commitment to review the supply and demand situation for plant proteins in the E.U. and to explore possibilities to further develop their production in an economically and environmentally sound way.

In addition, the European Parliament adopted a report in April 2018 calling for a European strategy to promote European protein crops.

To read the complete report, click here.