Source: EU Commission
Source: EU Commission

Palm oil imports by European Union (EU) member states in the 2022/23 marketing year dropped significantly compared to the previous year, Germany’s Union for the Promotion of Plants and Protein (UFOP) reported.

Imports by Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands saw the greatest decline, according to the 19 July report.

In the period from July 2022 until the end of June 2023, the EU-27 imported just under 4M tonnes of palm oil. This was around 934,000 tonnes or 19% less than the previous year.

Spain was the EU’s leading importer purchasing 1.229M tonnes – up around 4% compared to the 2021/22 marketing season – followed by the Netherlands with 1.172M tonnes.

However, Dutch imports were just less than 19% short of the previous year’s total of 1.4M tonnes.

“With regard to Dutch imports, it should be noted that ports such as Rotterdam or Amsterdam are central destinations for overseas imports and serve as ports of entry into the EU from where palm oil is shipped on to other EU member states. Also, the Netherlands is an important European location for the production of biofuels,” UFOP said.

According to research by Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft, the decline in Italian palm oil imports was more pronounced.

At 803,000 tonnes, Italy’s imports were around 38% less than in the 2021/22 marketing year. The slump in Belgian palm oil imports was even sharper, with imports dropping 42% to 100,000 tonnes.

In contrast, Germany imported significantly more palm oil in 2022/23, purchasing 359,000 tonnes – up just less than a quarter compared to the previous year.

Welcoming the general decrease in palm oil imports, UFOP said the trend was mainly due to the decline of palm oil use as a feedstock in biodiesel and hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) production.

“However, it is critical that in the same period, imports of questionable biofuels from China to the EU saw a massive increase. Such biofuels were declared to be advanced but there were strong doubts about the correctness of the certifications and required proofs of raw material origin,” UFOP said.

“EU member states are all required to phase out the crediting of biofuels from palm oil towards national blending mandates or greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction quotas no later than 2030. In Germany, such crediting has already been disallowed since January 2023; imports for the purpose of processing for export are still possible.”

In addition, other member states – including Austria, Belgium, France, Italy and Sweden – had also excluded the crediting of palm oil-based biofuels, the association said.

Looking ahead, UFOP said it expected domestically-sourced rapeseed oil would gain importance as an “iLUC (indirect land use change)- free” feedstock alternative due to the fact that rapeseed was grown in crop rotations in traditional agricultural regions.

As part of negotiations to amend the Renewable Energy Directive (Red III), the EU Commission was due to present a report by 1 September 2023, which would investigate if soyabean oil should also be classified as an “iLUC feedstock”.