IFFO attends the 6th Global Feed and Food Congress (GFFC), Bangkok

Are we ready to shape the future of Feed and Food?

IFFO was represented at the 6th Global Feed and Food Congress (GFFC) by the Technical Director, Dr Neil Auchterlonie .  The GFFC is organised by the International Feed Industry Federation (IFIF), with technical support provided by the FAO, and for this event in collaboration with VIV and the Thai Feed Manufacturers Association as a supporting partner.  Representatives of all these organisations, as well as the Thai Ministry of Agriculture provided introductory presentations in the opening session.  These brief presentations set the scene for the three days of the event with main messages about increasing population size driving an increasing demand for animal source foods (ASF), against a background of limiting or restricted resources.  The selected theme, ‘The future of Feed & Food – are we ready?‘, linked to the global challenge to provide safe, affordable, nutritious and sustainable animal protein sources through innovative solutions to feed 9 billion people by 2050 and reflects our shared vision to achieve this for a growing world population now and for the future. The UN SDGs were mentioned several times in the context of actions taken with regard to sustainability of feed and ASF production.

The sessions were split into various subjects: Digital Revolution; Sustainability; Feed & Food Safety; Nutritional Innovation; Global Regulations & Policy; and Markets & Trade.  Attending the GFFC, one really had the feeling that this was at the heart of strategic planning for the animal protein sector.

Roughly about 250 delegates from industry, intergovernment organisations, government/regulators, and academia were present at the event. 

Sustainability: “we can only manage what we can measure”

A session was entirely devoted to sustainability.  Moderated by Ruud Tijssens (IFIF), it included presentations by Prof. Ermias Kebreab (Director, World Food Center, UC Davis), Dr Jimmy Smith (Director General, International Livestock Research Institute), and Dr Nina Challand (Team Lead Sustainability Evaluations, BASF Nutrition & Health).  The topic of sustainability focused in the main on swine, poultry and ruminants, but the specific points raised were equally applicable to fish feed.  The overarching relevance of UN SDGs was again to the fore, as were reference to FAO work via the LEAP guidelines, ISO standards such as ISO14040, and the importance of an LCA approach in gathering meaningful data that could be used in reporting.  A key phrase that was reported throughout the session and later in the conference was “we can only manage what we can measure”, and it is a very important aspect of the work in the feed industry that will help to drive forward change.  FEFAC’s GFLI project and the important data that it provides on feed ingredient environmental impacts was referred to, and readers will recall that IFFO has been active in this project in providing data to the project management with the kind assistance of the producers. 

An interesting question in the Q&A session in this plenary related to the return on investment for food production and how this fared as an attractive proposition with other industries.  It seems that with some clear policy drivers in place and some obvious increases in demand over time, the livestock production industry is being increasingly regarded as a good investment proposition.

Sustainability: focus on three different aspects of the industry

The first presentation, provided by Dr Lesley Mitchell of Forum for the Future strongly refenced the EAT Lancet report as a driver for some upcoming major shifts in dietary protein.  The report, which may be accessed here, was referred to many times in the GFFC.  Dr Mitchell mentioned the level of certified soymeal at 1.2% globally in the context of feed for ASF through to 2040, as well as briefly mentioning the potential role of aquaculture in supporting global protein production.  Two very interesting presentations followed, one on the development of cell-cultured meat, and the other on insect protein production.  The cell-cultured meat, also described as “slaughter-free” meat, is still at a relatively early stage of development, but is a developing sub-category protein sector.  It was interesting to understand that of course this production process also requires raw material in the form of amino acids, vitamins, lipids so there may even be a role for the fishmeal industry in this developing industry.  The insect protein presentation was given by Hermann Katz off the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed.  Mr Katz quoted insects globally as having four times the biomass of all the other world animals combined in stressing the potential they have for food and feed.  Quoting protein levels of 50-82%, and the focus on the Black Soldier Fly (BSF) the industry has some stretch goals for production volume.  A figure of 200,000 tonnes was quoted for 2020, with a target of 1,213,000 for 2025.  With current projects in Malaysia and Indonesia it seems that SE Asia is a key opportunity for the industry.  The Q&A session raised some interesting points about the regulations in Europe and the likelihood that a focus on farmed animal welfare may hinder the development of the sector there as that region’s regulatory framework struggles to understand the implications of this new developing industry.  It also seems that currently the main market for the product is a very niche petfood market for dogs, as the material is viewed as hypoallergenic.

Feed and food safety

Reference was made to the consumer influencing the food and feed safety agenda, even at one point mentioning that “the consumer is the new CEO” in order to stress how much importance is now being placed on the consumer and the role they can play in how businesses operate.  Clearly there are implications for the marine ingredients industry with such an approach.   A presentation on Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) brought that issue to the fore, and the Q&A slot in this session also raised mycotoxins and dioxins as very important subjects for the value chain.  The EAT Lancet report was again the focus of much attention here. 

Nutritional innovation

“Nutrition is crucial to maintaining animal health and welfare, and can help reduce the use of antibiotics”, something that we have been arguing in IFFO for some time now, was a key part of the welcome statement during one of the sessions.  With presentations from the WHO, University of Utrecht and Nutreco, the presentations explored the strategies for the need for 50% more food in 2050 than we had in 2012.  This will be achieved likely through a combination of early life stage nutritional optimization, PLF, and the optimal use of high value feed ingredients in the right places.  Obviously some great potential for marine ingredients in these strategies.

Global regulations and policy

Presentations from Codex, the Thai Ministry of Agriculture, and ICCF were made on the final day.  This important but complex session looked at the best way to achieve consistency and harmonization across the regulatory environment for feed and food, something which is much needed in bringing some straightforward understanding of rules and regulations in the marketplace.  Unfortunately there were no startling changes voiced in the presentation of the discussion, but the role of organisations like Codex was clear, and there was consistent reference to the need for government and regulators to work closely with industry to ensure that regulations are efficient in their application.

Trade and market development

Hosted by Nick Major of FEFAC, this session discussed how the apparent increasing demand will fit alongside a decreasing growth in protein sector performance.  ASP was obviously highlighted as key in meeting demand, with poultry, pork and fish important aspects of that story.  Short term issues such as the emergence of African Swine Fever in impacting pork production in China were highlighted as examples of phenomena that can really impact strategic growth objectives. Animal health and disease outbreaks have very real impacts on animal protein production, and biosecurity measures are an effective way of combatting disease spread, but there are differences in the way diseases are regulated which causes some issues. 

The Asian market, and SE Asia especially, were mentioned as specific regions for growth where demand is exceeding supply at this stage.  Shortages of protein have an impact on biosecurity controls and there was an example of live cattle being imported into at least one country without adequate controls in place.  Spread of animal disease is at highest risk with the movement of live animals, so this is a real issue for the global food and feed industries.  The UN is key to balance factors of economic development, public health and environmental impact, within this challenge of feeding an ever-rowing global population.

Conclusion

In general terms the leaders did feel like they were ready for the challenge of taking on more supply, and of course they referenced many of the positive points of the sessions in this regard.  They were very upbeat on the business opportunities especially in Asia.  The GFFC was congratulated for holding the event in the heart of the emerging markets in that regard.  One of the more interesting questions from the audience asked whether the different regulatory frameworks in different countries and regions was likely to help or hinder growth.  This was a reference in the main to EU legislation, which seems somewhat “clunky” on issues such as feed additives and GMOs.  The adoption of new technology is regarded by the leaders as essential to meeting demand, and it is important that industry has a voice in speaking with regulators about making sure legislative controls are efficient.  Fish, and aquatic protein, was referred to as a key opportunity, although some of those messages were a little confused and IFFO will be following up with some of the individuals on their responses.

Author: Neil Auchterlonie