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Alexander DÖRING, FEFAC: “Feed industry had a nice story to tell”

“Our plan for the future is clear: paving the way to make our vision go through, in a chain spirit. Investing in innovative nutritional solutions, improving feed safety along the chain and developing tools to measure and secure responsible supply are the baselines for a successful feed industry and our mission is to maximise the possibilities for our members to do the best of what our organisations propose.”

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This month we are together with Alexander DÖRING, Secretary General of European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation (FEFAC). Consisting of 25 national associations in 24 EU countries, FEFAC represents nowadays 70% of the EU industrial compound feed production. Stating that FEFAC is the only independent spokesman of the EU Compound Feed Industry at the level of the European Institutions and internationally within the International Feed Industry Federation, IFIF, Döring said the estimated number of feed mills operating in the EU is 3,800 and 156 million tonnes of compound feed were produced in the EU in 2015. We are taking the details about the transformation of European feed industry and global feed industry from Alexander Döring.

Mr. Döring, first of all could you please give us some information about FEFAC? How many members do you have; what is your member profile and what are your activities as a federation in the European feed industry? What is the ratio of your members in total feed industry?
FEFAC membership today consists of 25 national associations in 24 EU Member States as full members as well as Associations in Switzerland, Turkey, Norway, Serbia and Russia with observer/associate member status. FEFAC represents the compound feed and the premixtures manufacturers. It was founded in 1959 by five national compound feed associations from France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands and its membership consists nowadays of 25 national associations in 24 EU Member States as full members. But FEFAC membership goes beyond the EU borders: we have for long established privileged relationship with countries candidate to join the EU. For example, we have Türkiyem-Bir, representing Turkey compound feed manufacturers, as associate member to FEFAC. Other association members to FEFAC are associations representing the compound feed producers in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries (e.g. Norway, Switzerland) as well as European federations whose field of activities is directly linked to animal nutrition (e.g. EMFEMA representing feed minerals or EFFPA representing former foodstuff processors). In addition, we also have the Serbian and Russian national associations of compound feed manufacturers as observer members.

FEFAC represents nowadays 70% of the EU industrial compound feed production. It is the only independent spokesman of the EU Compound Feed Industry at the level of the European Institutions and internationally within the International Feed Industry Federation, IFIF.

Under the leadership of our current president Ruud Tijssens, supported by the members of the FEFAC Praesidium, the Council the Committees and other advisory bodies, FEFAC operates in the interest of feed business operators across the EU and beyond. Our main missions are:
• Lobby for a legislative framework and its implementation, without discrimination in EU Member States so as to maximise market opportunities for EU compound feed companies;
• Safeguard conditions of free access to raw materials, the proper functioning of their markets and the definition of their quality;
• Develop professional rules and good manufacturing practices including the sourcing of feed materials that ensure the quality and the safety of compound feed;
• Encourage the sustainable development of livestock production responding to the market requirements, so as to maximise market opportunities for EU compound feed companies;
• Encourage the development of precompetitive European feed-related Research & Development projects seeking to enhance the EU feed & livestock sectors competitiveness and capacity to innovate in and/or transfer science and technology based solutions to improve the sustainability of resource efficient livestock production systems.

Could you please give us some information about European feed industry regarding the data you have? What are the feed varieties which are produced in Europe and what is the production amount? What are the most produced and consumed feed varieties in Europe?
Based on the data provided by our member associations, we estimate that 156 million tonnes of compound feed were produced in the EU in 2015. More detailed figures will be available by the end of June 2016, however it can be expected the estimation is realistic. This would mean almost status quo compared to 2014.

Poultry & layer feed is the leading compound feed segment with 34% of the total compound feed production, slightly above pig feed (31%). Cattle feed production is not far behind, with 27% of the market.

How many companies producing feed are there in Europe? What can you say about the feed production capacity, their capacity usage and technologic structure?
We estimate the number of feed mills operating in the EU at 3,800 units, meaning an average production of slightly more than 40,000 ton/year. The structures are very different depending on countries, since restructuration has not been operated at the same speed everywhere. For example, looking at the average size of feed mills you can see that, 20 years ago, the average capacity of a feed mill in Italy was 11,000 tonnes, whereas a Dutch feed mill had already an average capacity of 45,000 tonnes (more than the present EU average size). Nowadays, an average Italian feed mill is producing 29,000 tonnes (still three time as high as 20 years before) but during the same period, the Dutch feed industry has continued its restructuration, with an average side around 140,000 tonnes/unit.

What is the importance and place of European countries in global feed production? Which European countries are prominent in terms of global feed production and exportation? Which countries have difficulties in feed production and need to import?
Germany holds the position of leading EU country in terms of total compound feed with 24 million tonnes, ahead of Spain (22 million tonnes) and France (21 million tonnes). Germany is the leading cattle and pig feed producer while France maintains the leading position as poultry feed producer.

Looking at Europe at large, i.e. including in particular Russia and Turkey, compound feed production may be estimated around 220 million tonnes, making of Europe still the leading region for compound feed production at global level with some 22% of the market, still ahead of China and USA.

Compound feed is generally a good that does not travel much. Trade is limited to neighbouring countries and is more a matter of competitiveness of individual companies than policies, considering that we operate in an almost fully harmonised legal environment. Having said that, there are still some elements that can affect the competitiveness of individual companies, especially the tax regime. In addition, you may have situations like in Denmark where feed businesses are required to pay 100% of the official control costs whereas their competitors beyond the borders don’t. However these types of distortions can also generate cross-border trade flows.

Supplying raw material for feed is one of the most significant issues of feed industry. Raw material is considered as a problem in many countries. Does Europe have any difficulty in this sense? What can you say about the raw material production in Europe?
The EU market requirements for feed materials are estimated at approximately 260 million ton/year and representing 15% of the global feed market, have started to deviate substantially from other continents because of societal and political dynamics, resulting in ever increasing constraints and specifications for our feed supply. These developments have a direct effect on feed security for the long term which could undermine the EU livestock industry’s competitiveness. The EU holds very different views and standards compared to other world regions when it comes to food safety, genetic modification of crops and sustainability. At the same time, the EU remains highly dependent on imports for the supply of several critical commodities, such as protein-rich feed materials and essential minerals, e.g. phosphates. The EU feed industry is faced with an increasingly complex supply of feed materials when doing business with its trading partners, as our companies operate on the same global market with powerful upcoming markets such as China and India, who don’t demand the same specifications. The EU already lost preferential buyer status for many key exporters as a result.

Feed business operators have to comply with very strict rules as regards EU food safety. This led to the situation where the EU feed industry had to deal with an aflatoxin crisis in 2013 because a large consignment of maize from South-Eastern Europe was deemed unsuitable for feed use, though this very same batch was eventually exported and processed as cattle feed in the United States because of more lenient standards. In addition, increasing political and market demands for sustainable feed material supply are creating new pressures for our sector seeking to meet the societal demands. Our sector already successfully demonstrated that innovative improvements in resource efficiency go hand in hand with environmental gains. However, all the above-mentioned deviations create an unlevel playing field on the global market and may pose a serious threat to the competitiveness of the EU livestock industry in the long term.

FEFAC uses all possible opportunities to insist on the need for EU authorities to secure access to the global market of feed materials. FEFAC does recognise and support the objective laid down in the new Common Agricultural Policy to reduce our dependency on imports by supporting Research and Development, Innovation and Investment in the local production of vegetable protein and the safe use of alternative feeds such as non-ruminant processed animal protein (including insects) and former foodstuffs. However, the EU needs to establish a policy framework on food and feed security which identifies access to feed materials as a key strategic goal. After all, we want to maintain a sustainable livestock industry in the EU that meets societal demands, while creating added value and jobs in rural communities by taking advantage of the growing global demand for animal products.

Now let’s focus on recent activities… FEFAC and IZBA (the Polish Feed & Grain Chamber) organised a workshop on sustainability in Warsaw and discussed sustainability in feed production. Could you give some information about this workshop, the participants, the issues discussed and the decisions taken by?
Sustainability is indeed the second pillar of FEFAC activities. The FEFAC Sustainability Committee has already realised a substantial amount of work since it started its work in 2012, focusing on two main aspects, i.e. responsible sourcing of feed materials and measurement of environmental footprinting. This has been illustrated for example by the publication of the Soy Sourcing Guidelines and the development of the Feed PEF Pilot, which is designed to develop tools to measure and reduce the environmental footprint of feed and livestock production.

However, it is important not to forget about other sustainability parameters. The perception of sustainability in one country may not be the same as in another country. This is why FEFAC and IZBA (the Polish Feed & Grain Chamber) organised this workshop on sustainability in Warsaw in March this year, with approximately 25 participants. The objective was to hold a thorough discussion on what sustainability means for the feed industry and to explore the priorities and challenges of Central and Eastern Europe for the development of sustainable feed and livestock production systems.

It became clear that the key FEFAC sustainability pillars “environmental footprinting” and “responsible sourcing” may be high on the agenda in North-Western Europe, in countries like Poland the focus currently lays on other items. It was interesting to see a lot of work being done to stimulate the development of alternative protein sources like sweet lupines, non-GMO soy and peas & beans. This is driven by the strong political disapproval of GMO feed materials in countries such as Poland and Hungary, which can even be found in legal provisions which aim to prohibit its use. As well as in other countries, our colleagues in Poland and Hungary also see that replacing GMO soybean meal is a huge challenge for sectors like broilers and laying hens, as no other protein source matches its qualities in the light of nutritional characteristics mainly linked to the amino-acid profile, palatability and availability. FEFAC has always claimed that the EU Commission proposal to renationalize the authorization of GMO crops use for feed or food was not only a disaster for the political EU harmonization momentum, but also simply technically impossible without impacting price, quality and even animal welfare, in addition to the livestock farmer’s competitiveness.

Sustainability can take many faces and further work will need to be done by the FEFAC Sustainability Committee to allow for regional challenges and initiatives to become fully integrated into the FEFAC Sustainability agenda, including the economic dimension which remains a key pillar. There is no sustainable livestock production without farmers!

In April again, the compound feed industry’s contribution to the economy and the measuring of the environmental footprint of feed production was discussed during the FEFAC XXVII Congress. What can you say about the environmental footprint of feed industry? What are the decisions taken on this issue?
Increased demand for land resources globally for all the different purposes has put pressure on agricultural production for human consumption, making the need to strive for increased feed efficiency nothing less than a necessity. In addition, the effects of climate change will continuously challenge the way sustainable, economically viable livestock production can prosper. It’s a challenge animal feed manufacturing can provide solutions to, even though food chain sustainability should always be assessed at the level of finished animal products given the fact feed is an intermediate product.

We decided to make sustainability the key thematic for our Congress in Antalya on 21-22 April 2016 to highlight that the current political attention for circular economy and resource-efficiency provides an excellent opportunity for the feed industry to showcase its contributions to reducing environmental impacts.

Defining a “sustainable livestock industry” is a complex matter, and improvements and achievements should be the result of common metrics that also enable to take into account specificities related to respective markets and countries. To allow for feed solutions to objectively mitigate the environmental footprint of animal products, a trustworthy and transparent reporting framework is required.

FEFAC is involved in several projects to come to a harmonised methodology to calculate the LCA performance of feed production. At global level, FEFAC is a member of the Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance partnership (LEAP), coordinated by the FAO, and contributed to the publication of the FAO/LEAP Feed LCA Guidelines in 2015. At EU level, FEFAC contributes to the Feed Pilot as part of the PEF (Product Environmental Footprint). This project, launched by the European Commission, aims to stimulate the development of a single market of green products. This project can in its turn take advantage of a global database of feed ingredients provided by the Global Feed LCA Institute. As many feed ingredients are globally used and traded, it makes sense to take an international approach and base environmental footprinting on the same methodology and LCA calculations. In addition, the Global Feed LCA institute will enable benchmarking and stimulate market differentiation. In the Feed PEF Pilot the category rules for feed production are currently being drafted and expected to be assessed and approved by DG ENVI in 2016.

FEFAC believes the efforts that are put into increasing EU supply chain sustainability should also be viewed in the light of overall improvements in exporting countries at farm level. Creating an EU-specific high-end sustainability segment in a fragmented market will not bring solutions to the issue of global resource depletion and may set the level of ambition too high for agricultural producers to be an appealing incentive. FEFAC therefore favours a gradual and continuous improvement of agricultural standards in a global perspective which maintains natural capital and long-term capacity of production.

Sustainability is per definition a dynamic concept and will change as societal demands evolve. This means the food chain’s approach towards sustainability will also change over time, as new insights are gained. Societal demands for example can cause trade-offs in the light of feed efficiency, as consumer demand for slower growing animals has increased.

During the FEFAC XXVII Congress, the delegates also adopted the FEFAC 2030 vision on the Animal Feed Industry. Could you give us some information about the FEFAC’s road map to be followed until 2030? What are targets of FEFAC in 2030 and what kind of activities are being planned for this?
We all know that the livestock sector is facing a number of challenges, in particular producing more with less resources, while reducing its impact on the environment and its use of antibiotics, this in an economic environment exposing EU farmers to third country operators, not always operating with the same standards.

For all the challenges faced by the livestock sector, animal nutrition & technology can indeed offer solutions:
• Preservation of gut health through nutrition and feed additives to reduce the need for antibiotics,
• Contribution to the circular economy through appropriate feed formulation and use of feed additives that increase use of by-products from other industries and former foodstuffs in animal feed,
• New solutions to developing precision feeding techniques to optimise livestock economic and environmental performance at farm level,
• Cost-effective feed and services to support farmers’ revenues,
• Adapting feeding strategies to improve animal wellbeing and quality of food and to mitigate environmental impacts through sustainable animal production systems.

For this, the feed industry invests in animal nutrition research (specialty feed ingredients, processing, sensors, IT tools) and develops innovative functional feeds. By working proactively, the feed industry has a great potential to improve the sustainability of the EU livestock sector and resilience of the food chain.
• Reducing the environmental footprint of livestock by improving feed use and feed conversion rates
• Responsible sourcing, production and use of feed ingredients,
For this, the feed industry is developing credible and robust data/benchmarking to foster continuous improvement: you can only manage what you can measure!

Efficient feed safety management requires communication and cooperation among all chain partners and authorities: the earlier in the chain a contamination is detected and contained, the less the risks and costs for the rest of the food chain. Access to adequate feeding techniques to further reduce the risk of food chain contamination is of paramount importance in this regard. The feed industry is engaged with other chain partners to optimise risk management along the feed chain and to develop effective early warning and feed safety management systems.

We do a lot of things already and it has been for long our belief that the feed industry had a nice story to tell but has never told it. We have decided to start telling it and this is the basics of the set of vision documents that the FEFAC Council adopted unanimously in Antalya and will be the spinal cord of the FEFAC activity for the 5 years to come. This set of vision papers is structured around three thematic pillars, i.e. animal nutrition science, sustainability and feed safety management.

Finally, what would you like to add about global and European feed industry, industrial targets and future plans/projects of FEFAC?
FEFAC has a vision, which we intend to carry out with very efficient human resources and leadership. Our plan for the future is clear: paving the way to make our vision go through, in a chain spirit. Investing in innovative nutritional solutions, improving feed safety along the chain and developing tools to measure and secure responsible supply are the baselines for a successful feed industry and our mission is to maximise the possibilities for our members to do the best of what our organisations propose. But those who will make our vision happen are the operators themselves. They are strongly invested in developing new solutions whether to improve nutrients efficiency or maintain gut health. The feed industry can make its vision happen, but not alone. Public authorities must invest in animal nutrition research and streamline the legal framework. Partnership between authorities and all feed, livestock and food chain stakeholders to shape the livestock sector of the future will benefit society.

We will present our vision in cooperation with our colleagues from FEFANA at a joint conference in Brussels on 9 November 2016 and we expect Commissioner Andriukaitis in charge of Health, Consumers and Food Safety to acknowledge the contribution of the feed industry to address a number of challenges which are central to his mission.

We also suggest you to read our previous article titled "Yemtar, Emre UYAR: “40% increase in capacity is possible with new technologies”".

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