Source: EU Commission
Source: EU Commission

A drop in palm oil imports by the EU-27 plus UK is expected to decline further, according to forecasts published by Germany’s Union for the Promotion of Oil and Protein Plants (UFOP) on 30 June.

In its latest report, UFOP said EU member states imported less palm oil than in the previous marketing year with particularly sharp declines in the Netherlands and Spain.

The EU-27 plus UK imported around 5.5M tonnes of palm oil between July 2019 and the end of June 2020. This was a drop of around 0.7M tonnes or 11% year-on-year. The Netherlands (1.61M tonnes), Spain (1.52M tonnes), and Italy (1.35M tonnes) remained the biggest importers while Germany imported around 0.2M tonnes.

While the Netherlands remained the largest palm oil importer within the EU it was also a palm oil exporter to other member states, according to EU Commission statistics.

Germany imported approximately 0.245M tonnes from the Netherlands in the period July 2019 to April 2020, according to research conducted by Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft.

Although Spain was the second largest importer of palm oil to the EU, despite a 16% decline compared to 2018/19, Italy had raised its imports by 13%. UFOP said a 38% growth in palm oil imports to France, to 0.234M tonnes, was significant.

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

UFOP said it expected palm oil imports to decrease further due to the implementation of the delegated decree to implement the sustainability requirements for biomass with high or low indirect land use (ILUC) risk.

The pace of decline would depend on each member state's level of ambition to end the use of palm oil, according to the association.

Pointing out the unsatisfactory quality of data in the official statistics of the EU Commission and member states, UFOP called for the EU database announced in the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) to be created as soon as possible on the lines of Nabisy, the database system of the German Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE).

This would mean that companies would be required to keep records of feedstock types and origins for traceability.

The European Commission’s delegated act for determining high ILUC-risk feedstocks, published in May 2019, drew fire from Malaysia and Indonesia for classifying palm oil from large plantations as a high ILUC-risk feedstock that should be capped at its 2019 level of consumption.

It was also criticised by the European association of farmers and cooperatives (Copa Cogeca) for granting a special exemption to palm oil smallholders, and for excluding other palm oil products from its scope.