Brussels (Brussels Morning) Julien Denormandie, the French Minister of Agriculture and Food, has announced plans to double the area under soybean cultivation in the next decade in order to reduce dependence on imports and to regain food sovereignty, Reuters reported Tuesday.
An immediate aim is a 40% increase of the area growing protein-rich crops by 2023, he said, a goal that will require farming an additional 400,000 hectares.The overall target is to reduce soybean imports from the Americas, Denormandie said, noting that the lion’s share of soy-based proteins in the EU comes from South American countries.
Between July 2019 and June 2020, France imported 2.2 million tonnes of soybean meal, of which 1.95 million tonnes came from Brazil. In addition to meal, France imported 658,000 tonnes of soybeans in the 2019/2020 season. The plan to double the protein-crop area in the space of 10 years would lower France’s reliance on imports by 10 percentage points.
France is to invest 100 million euros over the next two years to entice farmers to devote more land to protein-rich crops. According to Denormandie, the Ministry will encourage the cultivation of beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas and soybeans. Domestic production accounts for about 50% of the country’s protein crop needs, he said, while noting that importing from South America contributes to deforestation.
Recent data indicates that deforestation of the Amazon in Brazil reached a 12-year high this year. France has cited environmental grounds for opposing a trade deal between the EU and the Southern Common Market, a South American trade bloc.
Denormandie also pointed out that proposed changes to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy would provide more subsidies to French farmers, improving their competitiveness against cheaper imports. Moreover, he cautioned that the plan would not support plant-based proteins for production of processed foods like vegetarian meat alternatives.
The plan to double the area under protein-rich crops would bring the total area for cultivating such crops to approximately two million hectares. As is, France is the EU’s largest crop grower