US ships fewer soybeans to European Union
Soybeans are the most important oilseed crop imported to the European Union, ahead of rapeseed. Soybean imports over the first five months of the running crop year amounted to around 5.8 million metric tons, just about 1 million tons less year-on-year. There were big changes among supplying countries.
Brazil and the U.S. remained the top soybean suppliers to the EU, with volumes clearly shifting towards South America. Brazil delivered around 3.4 million tons from July 1 to Dec. 12, one-fifth more than the same period the year prior. Fifty-nine percent of imports were sourced in Brazil. By contrast, the U.S. supplied only 1.6 million tons, an 840,000-ton decline year over year. The U.S. accounted for 27 percent of EU-27 soybean imports. According to Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft (AMI), one of the reasons for the sharp drop in U.S. shipments is likely to be the damage Hurricane Ida caused to export terminals in the Gulf of Mexico, which severely hampered exports. Canada remained the third-most important supplier, exporting 639,300 tons, followed by Ukraine with 104,911 tons. This translates to a share of 11 percent and just less than 2 percent, respectively. Uruguay ranked fifth with 16,530 tons.
In this context, the Union zur Förderung von Oel- und Proteinpflanzen e.V. (UFOP) has pointed out that the EU Commission presented a proposal in late November to define future requirements for substantiating deforestation-free procurement of soybeans and palm oil, among other ag products. With that, the commission wants to stay abreast of the public debate on feedstock origins and transparency in the entire commodity chain.
The UFOP has underlined that such requirements are not news to the biofuels industry. In fact, appropriate requirements have been in place under the sustainability certification established by law since 2010. The dated evidence that land was used as area of cultivation before January 2008 is a parameter of particular importance. In view of the incipient debate to implement such requirements in Germany, the UFOP has urged that the scope of the documentation requirements for the commodity chain in question should be appropriate and reasonable in terms of practicability and bureaucratic effort, and should be along the lines of the sustainability certification in the biofuels industry. “Duplicate evidence” should be avoided.
According to UFOP, it should be noted that a proof of land use is already required both for certified sustainable soybean oil for use in biodiesel production and for importation of such commodity to the EU. The certification is awarded irrespective of the final use of the soybeans and type of processed product. This means that the corresponding amount of soybean meal is already included in the procedure. The German Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE) has extensive experience in implementing the certification requirements and has also created a database that has attracted international attention.
With regard to fair competition that is necessary in the interests of environmental and climate protection, the UFOP has underlined the fundamental need for regulation. According to information published by AMI, the growth in Brazil's exports is based on the use of additional land that has previously not been located due to a lack of data. The UFOP has admitted that this issue can be resolved thanks to the progress of satellite technology and the Global Risk Assessment Services project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). However, there is a risk of shift effects if key importing countries such as China do not impose analogous standards for imports. Internationally agreed sustainability standards could then be undermined. The UFOP has urged that such shift effects and the associated distortion of competition to the detriment of the EU’s agricultural sector should be avoided.