How do we want to see vegetable production and consumption in 2030 and how to get there?
Conclusion: We need to integrate leguminous vegetable protein crops into a regenerative cropping system through valuechain facilitation.
During the Groenboerenplan conferentie 2023, the Transition Coalition Food in collaboration with Jolijn Zwart-van Kessel, Innovation Lead Circular Agrifood Foodvalley NL and Henk Janknegt, Chairman of the producer organisation Protein Farmers of the Netherlands, organised a workshop.
The key question was: How do we want to see vegetable production and consumption in 2030 (if we consume in a 50/50 ratio) and what needs to happen at this moment to get there? This could include activities on the production and consumption side: Who or what is needed? And how? A number of challenges were mentioned from the side of Foodvalley NL and the Protein Farmers and workshop participants debated and came up with several suggestions.
One of the challenges is the fact that Dutch arable farmers are already ready to produce protein crops on Dutch soil for human consumption. However, this cultivation is not scaling up because of a lack of sales above cost price, due to the lack of a level playing field within Europe. For protein crop processors, it is more attractive to buy the raw materials abroad where it is cheaper to obtain. Dutch arable farmers receive no subsidy for growing protein-rich crops in the Netherlands, protein-rich crops are part of the so-called Eco scheme and thus part of the CAP system of income support, while arable farmers in other European countries 'get' up to 600 euros subsidy per hectare. There should be a level playing field within Europe to improve local marketing here.
In doing so, the eco-legislation allows for more cultivation, but sales will go towards animal feed. This contributes to less soya dependency, but perhaps only to a limited extent contributes towards the 50% vegetable-50% animal protein human consumption ratio ambition in 2030.
Furthermore leguminous protein crops are a great crop for arable farmers to set up in a regenerative system. Indeed, important properties of these protein crops are that they bind nitrogen (and therefore no more nitrogen needs to be added in the form of chemical fertilizers) and they provide a nice soil structure. These crops should therefore be included as part of the transition to such a farming system. But how to organise it? In our view, through the transitions in the food value chain.
It was emphasised that chain cooperation from cultivation to supermarket should play a role in making the acceptance of these plant-based local proteins more visible to consumers and in jointly achieving a fair price in the chain. Foodvalley NL is at the table with all chain partners and is also explicitly trying to realise this ambition through the Bean Deal, among others, and will also integrate this into the regenerative agriculture activities that will unfold in 2023.