'We have a responsibility to source soya responsibly'
6th Sep 2019 / By Alistair Driver
Progress is being made across the supply chain to source soya more responsibly, but there is still some way to go, according to experts commenting in the latest issue of Pig World.
In the past decade an estimated 50 million hectares of forest (an area the size of Spain) has been destroyed to grow commodities like soya, palm oil and beef. Much of this has taken place in Brazil, where the recent Amazon forest fires to clear land for crops and cattle have further intensified the spotlight.
Deforestation not only has devastating ecological impacts but also drives climate change – it is responsible for 12% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, with most driven by agricultural commodities, according the article.
The UK imports vast quantities of soya for animal feed and soya is the most important protein source in pig diets, according to ForFarmers’ corporate affairs director Nick Major, who is also president of Fefac, the European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation.
Its use in pig diets has fallen in the past 10 to 15 years to around 8%, thanks to the introduction of more rapeseed and sunflower oil, as well as distillers’ grains and synthetic amino acids. However, it remains an important ingredient thanks to a great nutrient profile – high protein content (more than 40%) and balanced amino acid composition – and year-round availability in predictable quantities.
The NPA is part of the UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya (RTSS), which convened last year, with a view of moving towards more sustainable sourcing. Signatories include the major supermarkets (bar Morrisons), plus the likes of Tulip and Cranswick.
Eight major supermarkets, representing 1.2m imported tonnes of soya, have now published action plans detailing how they are going to deliver on their promises.
NPA policy services officer Lizzie Wilson, who sits on the roundtable, said the pig sector is very much engaged in the process. "It’s historically been a volatile market, but soya is on our members’ radar more so than ever due to the public and media scrutiny,” she said.
The NPA continues to explore the issues around sourcing sustainably produced soya and the possible use of alternative proteins, some of which are listed in the article. But she stressed that producers must not be forced to bear the financial burden of changes that could force up the cost of pig feed.
“There are lots of retailers busily making commitments, and as always these come with a cost and as always this is passed on to producers,” Mrs Wilson added. “We have a responsibility [to source sustainably] and the scrutiny is going to increase.”
However, she warned that producers must not be ‘unfairly disadvantaged in order to meet the retailers’ commitments’. “The retailers can’t expect us to cover their costs,” she added.
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