EIP-AGRI Workshop: 'How to make protein crops profitable in the EU?'
Europe has significant potential for growing profitable protein crops. Not only is research needed but so is making knowledge on varieties and how to grow these crops available. Exchanging good practices and developing markets for farmers to sell their protein crop products are the key to success.
On 25 and 26 November, 56 representatives from farmers, breeding, applied research, advisors, NGOs and the feed and food industry met in Budapest to discuss the results of the EIP-AGRI Focus Group on ‘How to grow competitive Protein Crops in the EU’.
A range of protein crops were discussed by the experts who came from all over Europe: Soybean, faba bean, peas, lupins as well as fodder legumes like alfalfa and clover. The feed industry stressed that these crops should produce protein with the right balance of nutrients and quality. They said that soya beans set a very high standard in a heavily competitive industry with low margins and that alternatives need to live up to this standard at competitive prices. The food industry is also confronted with reducing margins due to dropping prices and is looking for high quality protein concentrates to develop new products. For farmers, the financial return is important, while rotational benefits and incentives given through programmes such as the CAP also contribute to farmers' decisions to grow protein crops. Participants highlighted the fact that solutions will differ according to each given perspective - either from the food, feed industry or from the farming sector. Equally, diverse agro-climatic and soil conditions in Europe largely determine which legume crops are most easily adopted.
Participant Puck Bonnier, Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands: “It is not black and white as we always thought. I have seen today that there are more options. Key is valorisation of the whole crop. But the advantage of soya is that it is present in many feed and food products.”
This networking event gave the opportunity to exchange experiences among several regional initiatives. Operational groups could be an important instrument to speed up the learning curve, e.g. on cropping systems or variety choice. It was noticed that this knowledge development shouldn’t be limited to the individual member state. Exchange between the different climatic regions across Europe will be key.
Tim O’ Donovan, TEAGASC:”Advisors (state, private and industry) are key influencers in what innovations farmers make, like growing new or more protein crops. However, protein crops are ‘minority crops’ and need organised cross-border innovation exchange systems for advisors and growers of protein crops. Also, for me, I need a quick and easy system to discern what EU funded research projects are most relevant to me and the growers I advise. A web-based ‘repository’ would be ideal”.