Resilience of the UK food system regarding demand for soy

01-07-2022 | |
Photo: Canva
Photo: Canva

Deforestation and the reputational impact associated with this is the most severe soy-related risk that the UK industry currently faces, says a report from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).

The UK imports over 3 million metric tons of soy each year, with the majority coming from just 3 countries – Argentina, Brazil and the United States.

Soy supply chain under stress

Soy is in heavy demand as a source of protein for UK livestock but the supply chain is under stress due to soy’s link to deforestation/land use change, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and global competition for resources.

The study, led by SEI’s York’s deputy centre director Dr Chris West and the Global Food Security-Food System Research, says:

  • The livestock industry is the most exposed to soy supply or price shocks, as around 90% of imported soy is used as feed in the UK. The poultry sector is particularly exposed, as it is most dependent on soy and least able to substitute in the poultry diet in comparison to diets of other livestock.

  • Traders and feed compounders (those who sell soy and feed mix within the industry) are likely to be less affected by a soy supply or price shock, as price changes are passed to their customers.

  • There are various opportunities for industry to respond to the risks associated with soy, such as switching to alternative feed crops, increasing the ability to source from alternative regions and using traceable or certified sustainable soy.

The study recommends some policy initiatives:

  • Traders and soy processors, animal feed manufacturers, livestock farmers, meat producers, retailers and the food service sector need to come together under a single “ask” to generate a market requirement for increased transparency in the soy supply chain, extending beyond UK traders. The recently launched UK Soy Manifesto provides a potential platform for this.

  • Due diligence legislation should be aligned to eh existing reporting frameworks.

  • Research into alternative feed crops needs to be accompanied by fuller assessments of the economic and environmental trade-offs involved.

  • Contracts for sourcing sustainable soy must be long-term focused. This will give soy farmers the assurance that customers will follow through on their commitments to purchase sustainable soy from farmers who provide the relevant accreditations.

Resilience of the UK food system regarding demand for soy. Policy brief can be found here 

Tony McDougal Freelance Journalist
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