How is Europe’s sunflower shortage changing up food production?


Ukraine is known as the ‘breadbasket’ of Europe. With far more than 70% of the country’s land dedicated to agricultural manufacturing, Ukraine is a key producer of sunflower, corn, soybeans, wheat and barley.

Now that Ukraine is in war with Russia, agricultural output is understandably disrupted. And knock-on results are becoming felt by foods producers across Europe.

Swapping out sunflower for soy

Of all the crops that Ukraine cultivates, it is finest acknowledged for sunflower seed output. In the 2021/2022 crop year, Ukraine experienced the maximum production quantity of sunflower seeds of any state in the earth, according to Statista.

During that time period, the nation made about 17.5m metric tons of sunflower seeds.

With cultivation and oilseed creation now mostly halted in Ukraine, and trade disrupted, shipping and delivery to meals suppliers throughout Europe is at a standstill.

Food stuff makers are being pressured to react at shorter recognize by changing sunflower seed oil in food with soybean or rapeseed (canola)-primarily based alternatives.

In accordance to French consumer group Que Choisir, goods possible to be impacted by a sunflower oil scarcity incorporate edible oils that comprise sunflower oil margarine and food items cooked, breaded or fried in oil, this sort of as crisps or breaded fish.

Other food stuff merchandise that could be impacted include these that have lecithin or sunflower seeds, these types of as cookies and cakes or prepared foods.

Que Choisir has raised fears that the facts on the packaging of these merchandise will no longer be compliant. “Delays concerning purchasing new packaging and its supply to the factory are extensive, many months at the extremely least,” ​noted UFC-Que Choisir journalist Elsa Casalegno.

This signifies that potential allergen hazards will not be declared on pack, she warned.

In France, the Directorate Basic for Levels of competition, Client Affairs and Fraud Avoidance (DGCCRF) is doing the job with client associations, suppliers and distributors to determine the most effective class of action.

Que Choisir believes a sticker should really be affixed to the packaging of each and every anxious products informing shoppers of the transform. Relevant products could incorporate biscuits, cakes, and sweets that have experienced sunflower lecithin material replaced with soy lecithin.

Changing sunflower with palm oil

Some corporations, acquiring fully commited to getting rid of palm oil from their source chains, are now seeking to reintroduce the controversial ingredient.

In Sweden, crisp maker OLW said it will get started to use palm oil in its output owing to the lack of sunflower oil.

To do so, the maker will buy only Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) qualified palm oil, which aims to make sure complete traceability and zero deforestation.

In the British isles, frozen food retailer Iceland Foods has mentioned it will substitute some sunflower oil with palm oil to handle the current shortage. An ‘unintended consequence’ of the war, according to managing director Richard Walker, is the scarcity of sunflower oil.

Iceland really publicly dedicated to getting rid of palm oil​ as an ingredient from its very own label goods in 2018, in a shift it describes as ‘taking a stand from tropical deforestation’. In so executing, the corporation ‘greatly increased’ its reliance on sunflower oil.

“Now that it has out of the blue become entirely unobtainable, we are doing the job closely with our suppliers to obtain alternate options,” ​noted Walker.

In numerous circumstances, the organization will be substituting sunflower oil with rapeseed. But there are some recipes for which rapeseed will not suffice, due to processing properties or taste problems. For these goods, Iceland will revert to palm oil.

“I say this with huge regret,” ​he stressed. Iceland, too, will use only certified sustainable palm oil.  All pertinent items will show palm oil in the list of ingredients.

Although Walker regrets the conclusion, noting the measure is ‘temporary’, not all in the industry feel the exact same. Michelle Desilets, executive director at the Orangutan Land Belief – a British isles charity operating to provide ‘sustainable solutions’ to the prolonged-expression survival of the orangutan in the wild – took to social media to welcome Iceland’s transfer.

“Good to see that Iceland Foods have finally (albeit reluctantly) arrive on board to do the right detail by sourcing sustainable palm oil.”

Non-GMO feed in natural meat?

Ukraine is also a main supplier of non-GMO sunflower seeds and cakes to the feed sector.

Concerns have been lifted that non-GMO breeders throughout Europe will be pressured to feed their animals with genetically modified soybean food as a substitution.

Products from animals – like cattle, pigs, poultry, and farmed fish – which are ‘guaranteed’ GMO-absolutely free, may now be fed with GMO soybean food, noted Que Choisir. This is specially problematic for natural and organic, ‘red label’, AOP, and totally free-assortment certified merchandise, which call for completely non-GMO feed in their production.

At the very least until finally past 7 days, nevertheless, it appeared there was enough supply of non-GMO soybean meal in the location. FoodNavigator’s sister publication FeedNavigator claimed soy shipments from Ukraine had been continuing to arrive in Germany, via practice, even even though ports had been shut.

The Danube Soya business in Kyiv proceeds to be energetic and expects the Ukrainian soybean harvest in 2022 to be 70% of the preceding year’s volume, according to the Affiliation of Food items devoid of Genetic Engineering (VLOG) on 29 March​.

“Currently…the supply problem seems to be superior than it originally appeared to some observers,” ​noted VLOG running director Alexander Hissting.

“Nevertheless, it is crucial to get ready for adverse situations.” ​VLOG’s non-GMO ‘Ohne Gentechnik’ (OG) normal members are engaged in intensive discussions to guarantee contingency ideas are in place need to there be a non permanent gap in GMO-totally free feed provides.


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