European farmers are calling for measures to protect the European biofuels sector and its feed protein co-product materials markets from severe disruption following COVID-19 control measures.

EU farm and co-operative trade body Copa and Cogeca has warned the European Commission to of the growing risk of instability in the European protein crop market and the biofuel supply chains.

COVID-19 containment measures around the world have led to fuel consumption and crude oil prices collapsing, with biofuel demand following suit. The closure of the food service and catering sectors across Europe is already reducing demand for vegetable oils – an accumulation of vegetable oils due to lack of demand from the food and biofuel sectors could saturate available storage capacity, limiting European crushers and reducing the production of co-product oil meals and DDGS in the EU.

Copa Cogeca already estimates that the global area planted to with protein crops is some 30% below the high reached in 2018/2019. Possible supply disruptions from major producing and exporting countries such as the US, South America and India could be exacerbated by an acceleration of the COVID-19 pandemic in these regions.

Pedro Gallardo chairman of Copa-Cogeca’s oilseeds and protein crops working party is calling for a temporary lifting of some restrictions on plant protection products for use on nitrogen-fixing crops in ecological focus areas. “This approach would increase our domestic production of soya, peas, beans and lupins on land beyond the areas receiving support in the form of voluntary coupled support,” he says.

His colleague Alexander Bachler, who chairs the bioenergy working party adds that the Commission should support domestic biofuel production by safeguarding it from cheaper ethanol imports from the US or Brazil. “We must refuse requests for a temporary suspension of tariffs on ethanol; maintain anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures that currently apply to biodiesel (B99) imports from the US; avoid giving in to pressure to reduce the incorporation of certified sustainable biofuels from EU arable crops, and immediately implement the delegated act to reduce biofuels with a high ILUC risk.”

Copa Cogeca says EU supplies of protein-rich co-products of non-GM origin could be affected by any drop in biofuel production from EU origin raw materials such as rapeseed and sunflower, while any increase in US and Brazilian ethanol imports would threaten the European ethanol industry and the availability of EU non-GM feed materials such as DDGS.