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NPA highlights commitment to sustainable soya after Government rainforest announcement

23rd Nov 2020 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has stressed the pig sector’s commitment to sustainable sourcing of soya, as the Government announced new UK laws designed to clamp down on deforestation.

soyaAmong the new measures in the Environment Bill is the introduction of a new law requiring greater due diligence from businesses, and making it illegal for them to use key commodities if they have not been produced in line with local laws protecting forests and other natural ecosystems.

With soya very much at the forefront, this could have significant implications for the pig sector. The move coincides with the publication of a new report setting out the Government’s approach to tackling deforestation linked to UK demand for products such as cocoa, rubber, soya, and palm oil.

International Environment Minister, Lord Goldsmith said, combined, the package of measures will ensure that greater resilience, traceability and sustainability are built into the UK’s supply chains by working in partnership with other countries and supporting farmers to transition to more sustainable food and land use systems.

The Government said 80% of deforestation is linked to the expansion of agriculture, with land being cleared to make way for grazing animals and to grow crops. While in global terms the UK is a relatively small consumer of ‘forest risk commodities’, we are leaving an ever-larger footprint on the world’s forests.

There were more than 60,000 responses to the government’s consultation, with 99% in favour of legislating on this critical issue.

NPA response

The NPA responded to the consultation, put together by policy services officer Lizzie Wilson, highlighting how seriously the pig sector is taking its responsibilities, but also  the potential pitfalls of trying to force change through legislation.

The NPA documement can be viewed in the Members Area - Hot Topics section (scroll down to environment section) 

Over the past 10 years, the UK pig sector has halved the inclusion of soya in pig diets from 20% to just under 10%, by substituting rapemeal, peas, beans and distillers waste as sources of crude protein. However, the anticipated increase in global demand for soy cannot be underestimated, the document said.

“There is a strong need for a coherent approach across industry, civil society,
and Government to ensure the long-term resilient supply of sustainable soy for the UK market and in particular to address the issue of illegal deforestation,” it said.

“As an industry we want to affect positive and tangible benefits on the ground in high risk areas. So, rather than using a blunt legislative tool, government could explore other ways in which it can influence positive change with industry in those countries.”

The NPA response stresses that while businesses should not be actively seeking to source illegally produced forest risk commodities, the degree to which forests are protected in national laws varies between countries.

“It is also true that international and company standards for commodities vary. This presents a challenge in that relevant local or national laws in some countries may not actually provide adequate protection from deforestation, with the highest risk areas requiring more robust legislative controls than others.

“The pig industry is indeed committed to sourcing sustainable forest risk commodities such as soya. However, industry alone cannot effect this tangible change.

“As stated by the Global Resource Initiative (GRI) in its Final Recommendations Report, Government procurement policy is just as important and as such should stipulate that products sourced by Government departments align with its policy ambitions. This consultation should be no exception.”

Recent figures from the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) estimate that the British pig industry uses approximately 358,700 tonnes of soya bean meal on an annual basis, equating to approximately 15% of the total SBM imports into the UK the livestock industry.

The industry is constantly exploring alternative protein sources, such as locally sourced crops like, cereals and legumes, insects protein and PAP - cross species feeding (pigs to poultry and poultry to pigs.

But these are either not yet commercially available or not available in sufficient quantities to supply both pig and poultry industries.

“Soya is still being the most efficient source of protein available, so the focus is very much on ensuring it comes from sustainable sources,” Lizzie said.