Can We Rely On Ukrainian Feed?
As head of Farming at the Soil association I recently attended a conference in order to understand how the organic sector in Ukraine is faring. The country lost one of their major certifiers in late 2014 and has had a number of contamination problems, especially with organic sunflower products destined for export across Europe. This is very important to the UK as the organic sector here is still very reliant on imported raw materials for animal feedstuffs.
As a result of this problem; Ukraine and a number of other countries to the east of Ukraine are subject to additional guidelines if they are to export products into the EU. These consist of at least one unannounced farm visit per year and additional sampling and testing prior and post export. Whilst the unannounced visits seem to be working well, there are clearly problems associated with the additional cost and delay in sampling and waiting for analysis before consignments can travel and be moved to final customers from their point of arrival into the EU.
Despite this, Ukraine is keen to expand from its current position where some 1.04% of the agricultural land is certified as organic - although it is not clear what proportion of this is certified to EU standards. Ukraine would like to expand their organic production to satisfy the increasing global demand for organic animal feedstuffs.
Ukraine remains a key production area for organic sunflower and cereals (maize and wheat). However, it would appear that future supplies of organic sunflower products are likely to continue to be lower than they have been in the past for two major reasons: firstly the Organic Farmers Association in Ukraine are recommending that their members grow more legumes and pulses rather than oilseeds to improve soil health and secondly, Ukraine appears to be finding other non EU customers are easier to please, resulting in increasing exports to countries such as the USA and Canada. This is also true of cereals.
For the UK this means that we cannot rely on business as usual with Ukraine in the future and will need to find other sources of organic raw materials for animal feedstuffs. We also need to look at ways of reducing our reliance on such proteins for animal diets as well as developing more supply chain relationships, similar to those which Waitrose announced at their conference where their suppliers are now working more closely with soy bean producers in the Danube region to bring soy bean products into the UK. This does also represent an opportunity for arable farmers in the UK to consider organic conversion to grow the raw materials for organic livestock producers within dedicated collaborative supply chains.