EC clears US soyabeans for biofuel

The European Commission (EC) has decided that US soyabeans can be used in biofuels in the EU as part of its push to strengthen trade relations with the USA.

The EC said in a statement on 29 January that the recognition of US soyabeans for use in biofuels was valid until 1 July 2021, but it could extend the date provided the USA met the sustainability criteria to be set in new EU rules from 2021 to 2030.

Currently, the USA exported soyabeans to the EU for animal feed but the soyabean oil was shipped back because the EU did not allow it to be used for fuel, according to Reuters. Should the EC decision proceed, this rule would be changed.

“So, on its face, it does nothing to increase soyabean exports in the EU,” a US-based lobbyist for the biodiesel industry said. “It just helps European farmers capture the full value and saves US farmers shipping costs.”

According to Claus Keller of German commodity analytical company FO Licht, EU biofuel producers used an estimated 400,000 tonnes of soyabean oil for biofuel production in 2018, compared with 5.9M tonnes of rapeseed oil, the EU’s main feedstock.

“I think the EU move will be positive for US soyabean sales prospects to the EU but it will not open a floodgate,” Keller said, adding that other factors would also influence the sale of US soyabeans, such as US-China trade talks and possible duties on Argentine biodiesel.

Reuters said the EU imported about 14M tonnes/year of soyabeans for animal feed, and the USA was the EU’s main supplier, accounting for a 75% share of the EU’s imports.