The European Union imports about 14 million tons of soybeans per year as a source of quality protein to feed its animals, including chicken, pigs, and cattle, as well as for milk production.
In 2019, the EU’s imports of U.S. soybeans increased by 112%, compared to the same period the previous year (July-December 2018). With a market share of 75% of EU soybeans imports, the U.S. remains Europe's number one supplier.
In 2020, U.S. Soy continued to be a very attractive feed option for European importers. Soybean imports into the European Union and the United Kingdom in the 2020/21 season that started on July 1 totaled 3.02 million tons by September 13, according to official EU data released on March 1. According to the numbers, that was 3% above the volume imported in the previous 2019/20 season.
Regional Compound Feed Production Lags
Preliminary annual European Feed Industry Federation (FEFAC) data indicate that, in 2020, compound feed production in the EU-27 and UK tallied 161.4 million tons (MT), down 2.2% compared with 2019. This is a less drastic drop compared to FEFAC’s initial June 2020 predictions of a 3-6% decline.
The drop in EU compound feed production is a result of the spread of animal diseases and the indirect impact of COVID-19, which led to a shift in consumer demand for products of animal origin. All main feed categories slightly decreased in 2020, even poultry feed.
The EU feed industry is cautiously optimistic that, in 2021, some normalcy will return. The market outlook for 2021, however, is far from positive. FEFAC expects that market conditions for all major animal production sectors will remain tough for the coming period. Countries with African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreaks have seen their pig meat export markets closed. There is a lack of short-term perspective for the reopening of the hotel, restaurant, and catering (HORECA) sector in many countries and tourism is still largely ‘banned.’ And then there are uncertainties like Brexit and Avian Influenza (AI).
“On the feed supply side,” says Iani Chihaia, USSEC country representative – Greater Europe and Romania, “we are also experiencing a fragile situation in terms of availability of certain feed additives, reduced supplies of co-products such as rapeseed and sunflower meal, and prices on global agricultural markets moving in an upward trajectory.” Chihaia points out that the reduced supply of co-products could create opportunities for U.S. Soy.
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