Action To Tackle EU Protein Crop Deficit Demanded – Mairead McGuinness MEP

EU agricultural policy must do more to reduce our dependency on imported protein crops while increasing home-grown production, said Mairead McGuinness MEP and co-author of a new European Parliament Resolution on the future EU strategy for the promotion of protein crops.

In adopting the Report, the Parliament’s Agriculture Committee called for an update of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to make cultivation of soya and other grain protein crops more profitable and competitive.

“Today’s vote has sent a strong signal to the EU Commission, which is due to launch a strategy on tackling the deficit in plant proteins by the end of the year. To achieve that aim, we must diversity our imports of protein crops and focus more on our European neighbourhood. We would also encourage more investment in research into increasing the profitability and yields of home-grown crops,” said McGuinness who represented the EPP Group in co-drafting the text.

“The EU is dependent on third country imports of protein crops, which are used to feed livestock. While European production of such crops increased from 24 to 36 million tonnes between 1994 and 2014, consumption also increased from just under 40 to 57 million tonnes, leaving a deficit of between 15 – 21 million tonnes. This is a very significant deficit and will not be addressed overnight, but inroads can be made if action is taken”, she said.

Coupled payments for protein crops introduced in the last reform of the CAP have helped but more needs to be done, according to McGuinness.

“In Ireland, the introduction of a coupled payment for protein crops has seen a significant increase in the area sown. However, as the funding is capped this limits  further expansion in production.”

MEPs called for investment in targeted research to make protein crops more economically attractive, their production more competitive and to increase their yields. They also backed plans to establish an EU platform supported by the European arable crops market observatory to identify protein cultivation areas, determine production capabilities and catalogue all research done so far on proteins

While the CAP could support the development of local and regional protein production and processing chains, where appropriate promoting self-sufficiency of farms with animal feed and adapt the animals’ diets by utilizing grass fodder instead of soya meal for ruminants. Protein production should also be examined in ecological focus areas – for both conventional and organic farming. Nitrogen-fixing protein crops can help farmers cut usage of synthetic nitrogenous fertilisers and reduce both, their input costs and negative impact on the environment, according to the text.

McGuinness added that any strategy, which promotes the production of protein crops, will only be successful if positive margins are returned  to the grower.

The Resolution is due to come before all MEPs for approval at the April plenary session.

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