Mr Asbjørn Børsting has been elected as FEFAC’s new president, for the term 2020 – 2023. All About Feed caught up with him to talk about his new position and the impact of Covid-19 on the EU feed industry.
PROFILE Asbjørn Børsting
Asbjørn Børsting, a graduate of the University of Copenhagen (Agricultural Economics), served as CEO of The Agricultural Council & DLG. He is currently director of DAKOFO, the Danish Grain and Feed Association and and also chair of the Danish Bio-Economy Panel.
Børsting has been engaged in the Agri-food sector for four decades at many levels, covering both commercial activities as former CEO of the Grain and Feed company DLG – and through his work with both national and EU agricultural policy making as CEO in the Danish Agricultural Council. For the last 6 years he has been director of the Danish Grain & Feed trade association – DAKOFO. He also currently chairs the Danish Bioeconomy Panel.
FEFAC must work on increasing European protein production.”
Congratulations on your election as the new president of FEFAC. You’ve been elected for the period 2020 – 2023. What will be your main areas of interest during this period?
FEFAC established its animal feed industry vision 2030 a few years ago. It’s still valid of course and I fully support it. The launch of the FEFAC feed sustainability charter 2030 will help us implement the vision and ensure that it’s effectively kept alive all the way up to 2030. My term will clearly be dominated by policy discussions in the context of the “farm to fork” strategy and the ambition to develop more sustainable food systems. The European protein plan will probably get a more central role as part of the ongoing CAP reforms. FEFAC must work with recommendations on relevant measures to increase Europe’s protein production. This can be done by measuring how to make protein crops relatively more competitive at the farm level and by giving a higher priority to national and European – research initiatives on plant breeding and processing of raw materials into competitive feed. We also have to maintain a strong focus, in this development, on securing the European feed sector’s position in order to maintain its competitiveness internationally. Much of our livestock sector in Europe must be competitive in international export markets. I also hope that FEFAC can deliver solutions on facilitating deforestation-free soy supply chains fairly soon. The updating of the FEFAC soy sourcing guidelines is in full swing, and we sense that there is a lot of anticipation that the impact of these updated guidelines will be as big as when the first version was released back in 2015. It is a key FEFAC objective to be ready before the EU legislative proposals designed to achieve deforestation-free supply chains are published.
What impact is the pandemic having on the global animal feed sector and how are they dealing with it.
In what way is the animal feed industry affected by the restrictive measures due to Covid-19?
Since the establishment of the EU “green lanes” agreement, we’ve been able to avoid severe supply chain disruptions. For imports there were also challenges but, together with our supply chain partners, we’ve able to ensure that supplies to livestock farmers weren’t disrupted. I expect that the influence on the European feed industry in the coming years will mostly be defined by effects in the downstream market. We know that consumption patterns related to animal products have changed, particularly due to closures in the hotel, restaurant and catering sector in many countries; this has an influence on feed production, particularly in the poultry sector.
Mr Asbjørn Børsting, newly elected president of FEFAC. Photo: FEFAC
How do you intend to contribute to the recovery of the industry in your new role?
I hope that people realise that luckily we’ve able to count on those raw material imports. In the current political debate people often like to criticise the fact that we import raw agricultural materials, but we would have had serious food security issues in Europe if imports were cut off. Together with FEFAC’s agricultural supply chain partner organizations, FEDIOL and COCERAL, I would like to highlight the important role that trade plays in ensuring that the European livestock farming sector can thrive and provide consumers with safe, sustainable and affordable foodstuffs of animal origin. Nevertheless we are aware of the political desire for a “green recovery”. I am conscious of the environmental impacts that the livestock sector has and the feed industry is committed to contributing to innovative solutions. I aim to keep FEFAC proactive as regards further developing the PEFCR (impact study of feed for food-producing animals) and facilitate its use by the feed sector. Linked to that are the efforts to launch the GFLI international LCA database for feed ingredients. Together, these tools are crucial assets in managing our contribution to reducing the livestock sector’s climate footprint.
The past months has laid bare our strengths and weaknesses and we can learn from both.”
Are there other challenges that the EU feed industry will face in the years ahead?
As stated in our “farm to fork” strategy, the discussion on establishing sustainable food systems will keep us busy for the coming years, and even after 2023. A particular challenge is the position of livestock farming in society and the consumption of animal products.
The organisations that have been advocating a reduction of both of those things will only become more vocal. The communication challenge will now be taken to the policy arena.
FEFAC is engaging with its livestock sector partners in the European “livestock voice” to tackle unfounded criticism. I strongly believe that there are no sustainable food systems without animal agriculture.
The 2020 FEFAC Congress has been postponed until 24/25 September in Antwerp; what will be the main objective of this conference?
For the main part, we will stick to our original plan, with a strong focus on sustainability. A key part is the launch of the FEFAC Feed Sustainability Charter 2030, which will provide a way for FEFAC members to make their sustainability commitments for the years ahead. We will also run a workshop on lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 crisis.
The past months has laid bare our strengths and weaknesses and we can learn from both.