Food AND Fuels : The complementarity of biofuels with the food/feed sector

Europe is the largest biodiesel producer in the world. The sector boosts the European economy, its agriculture and rural development. In fact, European biofuels are complementary to food production and play an important role for the EU agriculture and energy independence.

European 1st generation biofuels allow for a reduction of the protein deficit of the EU

The food and feed outlet, through the production of proteins, is a key pillar for the sector, as the EU is still dependent for 70% of its importation of proteins. The production of rapeseed and sunflower in the EU contributes to the reduction of this deficit. As protein meal accounts for 60% of the rapeseed, finding alternative outlets for the remaining 40% (the oil, be it for food or biodiesel use) remains crucial for the development of the European protein sector.

Biofuels development triggered significant investments and innovation and brought numerous advantages to the agricultural sector

The industry invested heavily in processing capacity to satisfy the rising demand of vegetable oil for biodiesel production. These investments are generally located in rural areas:

  • Agricultural sector
  • Plants’ crushing and semi-refining capacity
  • Biodiesel sector

The total sector investment in additional capacity for rapeseed crushing, rapeseed oil semi-refining and biodiesel production amounted to over 1 billion €.

The sustainability requirements applying to biofuels benefitted improvement of performance at the level of agricultural production and across the chain.

  •  Over the last ten years, rapeseed yields improved more than comparable crop production which are not or less targeted at biofuels production, such as sunflower seeds;
  • Carbon emissions savings associated from rapeseed methyl esters are today reaching between 60 and 65%. This is due to a more efficient use of agricultural inputs and to higher yields.

The development of rapeseed varieties with low glucosinolate levels favoured an increased use of rapeseed meal replacing where possible soybean meal in animal production

  • The sustained price of rapeseed meal compared to soybean meal shows that the use of rapeseed meal in animal feed is not weakening despite increased availability.

Abandoning the use of conventional biofuels will not divert rapeseed oil back to food use and prevent EU from importing oils

It is a misconception to consider that tropical oils such as palm oil, palm kernel oil or coconut oil are only imported because rapeseed oil is used for biodiesel instead of food; all vegetable oils serve specific uses and are interchangeable only up to a certain point: tropical oils are imported mainly because they have fatty acid profiles that offer better options for the reduction of trans fatty acids and saturated fats in food products than other oils or fats. For example, liquid oils (rapeseed and sunflower seed) need to be hardened (hydrogenated) with either higher saturated fatty acid (full hydrogenation) or higher trans fatty acid content (partial hydrogenation).

There is no alternative market to the biodiesel outlet that has the same ability to swallow about 6 million tonnes of rapeseed oil, neither within the EU nor on global markets, the latter being more used to either soybean or palm oil.