- rural development | common agricultural policy
- Helsinki, Finland
- Live streaming available
- Helsinki, Finland
The Finnish Cereal Committee (VYR) organised a two-day plant protein seminar in Helsinki, supported by the European Commission and the Finnish EU Presidency. Business, research and policy experts attended this seminar to discuss opportunities for the plant protein sector in the framework of the new common agricultural policy (CAP) and to take a closer look at on-going research and innovation projects in the sector.
Key findings were
- Feed and food markets are both important.
- Success factors for plant protein-based food are taste and texture. Flexitarians will further boost demand.
- Sustainability concerns the whole supply chain and general accepted evaluation methodologies are needed.
- Research and innovation is key, with a holistic approach on the whole food system.
- A broad policy approach is needed involving CAP but also other policy area (e.g. breeding).
- Market transparency is improving but data on pulses is still very limited.
In the opening session, the State Secretary of Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry stressed the importance of fighting climate change and emphasised the leading role of the EU. He is optimistic that EU’s self-sufficiency in proteins can be improved by the use of all protein sources, including by-products. The International Grains Council gave an overview of the global trends for oilseeds and protein crops. They started monitoring the global pulses market, but are faced with a challenging data situation for consumption and stocks. Globally, dry peas and lentils have the most promising outlook for future growth, followed by chickpeas.
During the panel discussion on EU protein self-sufficiency, the industry confirmed the growing importance of all plant protein sources, not only soya beans. As grass is an important protein source for ruminants, some Member States could become self-sufficient, for the others, sustainable sourcing of proteins is an important topic, including not being too dependent on one exporter and developing opportunities for sustainable production in third countries. As confirmed in the discussion on sustainable feed, sustainable sourcing - including life cycle analysis and traceability – is especially relevant for imported soya, while local sourcing plays an important role in the dairy sector. Ireland and Finland presented successful examples of local sourcing with a project in Ireland including faba beans and grain in the feed ration for dairy cows.
The European Commission's Department for Agriculture and Rural Development presented the state of play after the publication of the plant protein report and the interaction with the discussion on the CAP post 2020 and the upcoming Green Deal and Farm to Fork initiatives. Finland, France and Germany presented their protein plans and their ideas of incorporating them in the national strategic CAP plans. All speakers highlighted the importance of research and innovation. This was confirmed by the panel on innovation in protein sources. Research on plant proteins requires a holistic approach to favour an economic viable production. There are a number of protein sources available, beyond pulses also cereals and other crops. Several (Nordic) research projects were presented, dealing with breeding and genomics but also looking on changing consumer habits and their effects on the food production systems.
In the food sector, taste is the number one priority for the success, supported by appealing texture. Plant protein based food products used to target the vegan/vegetarian segment, but with a rising number of flexitarians the global market offers further growth potential. Additional challenges beyond taste and texture are nutritional value (studies need to be conducted to get an objective view on nutritional aspects of plant protein based products versus animal products), product standardisation and conformity (to organise the market and value chain around commonly agreed industry standards), sustainability assessment through agreed methodologies like life cycle analysis and the valorisation of protein by-products (starch/ fibre). The marketing of plant based food should not focus too much on sustainability and they should not necessarily be called alternatives. Without pleasure, the right taste and texture, these products will not become the “new normal”.
The rising demand in the food and feed sector offers opportunities for plant protein production in the EU, but farmers still face challenges. The knowledge on growing legumes and the awareness of their positive impact on the following crop and on soil health in general needs to be increased and shared within the farming community. Farm advisory services play a crucial role in that perspective but are confronted with the challenge to access the latest knowledge available, be it on digitalisation and robotisation or on agronomic practices. Big data will become more important in both farming and breeding, but because of cropping cycles, calibration takes several years. A fund on breeding research for minor crops (like in Australia or in Canada, funded by levies) could be interesting for legumes and pulses in the EU, as the market is too small for the big breeding companies.