The Furrow: Mr Döring, what is the status of protein supply in European livestock farming?
Alexander Döring: In many protein groups our autonomy rate is very high, for example it’s almost 100% in roughage, green fodder and grain with up to 15% protein content. The debate about the protein gap is only about highly concentrated protein sources between 30% and 50%, which in essence are rapeseed and soyabean meal. We’re at 29% autonomy there, but the trend we’re seeing is generally positive.
So is the deficit in this protein group not problematic?
In my view the gap is not the problem in and of itself. But we shouldn’t be making ourselves dependent on one or two export countries. What we should be doing is spreading the dependency so we can better absorb price shocks on world markets. The important thing is that we have market access to both domestic and international suppliers.
We need to have as comprehensive a range of products as possible.
We need to have as comprehensive a range of products as possible. For example, we are currently purchasing large volumes from neighbouring countries around the Black Sea. That’s not the EU, but it is a start.
What is the scope for cultivating soyabeans in Europe?
Italy has been the largest producer for years. We don’t expect any major increase there owing to the agronomic circumstances. In other neighbouring countries, like Romania, Hungary and Poland, we definitely see the opportunity to increase acreage. The non-GM protein market is bound to be an important focus for European producers wanting to become more independent of imported proteins. This niche in the market could prove to be the driving force behind the expansion of cultivation. This may well be on a relatively low level, but of course we are always happy to hear of any offers coming from the member states.
And for protein plants generally?
It’s very important to use more home-grown sources of protein. There is a great desire in Brussels and many member states to do more in this regard. The European Commission has already noted in its latest protein report that the acreage devoted both to soyabean cultivation and other legumes has already expanded significantly over the past few years thanks to the existing mechanisms provided by the CAP.
It’s very important to use more home-grown sources of protein. There is a great desire in Brussels and many member states to do more in this regard.
I think the issue will be considered a higher priority in the agricultural policy context after 2020. There is definitely greater room for protein plants as catch crops in the agricultural sector, since the part they play in crop rotation, for example for soil fertility, is often underestimated.
Are oilseeds still making the largest contribution to the high-protein sector?
Yes, they are going to play the main role in this sector for years to come – coupled with the production of sustainable energies. Rapeseed still, but sunflowers are also a major focus. Sunflower meal is now available in a quality that is practically equal to that of soyabean meal thanks to advances in processing. Advances in breeding and processing will further improve its digestibility.
Is there any potential in animal breeding?
Many scientists argue that animal and plant breeding will have to be tied more closely together. Up to now, much of this has run in parallel without ever coming into contact. However, the ideal utilisation of protein sources is an issue affecting the interaction between advances in both these fields, with research into animal nutrition acting as the link between them. There is still a lot of untapped potential here.