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Dutch feed producers have the power to secure a big budget for R&D

09 May 20229 min reading

The Netherlands does indeed have a number of major players that operate nationally and internationally. I am more positive than critical about that. Due to their size, these large companies have the space to invest in research and development. They make a major contribution to the innovative strength of our sector.

Henk Flipsen
Director
NEVEDI

In both mass and sectoral media, it can be clearly observed that the Ukraine-Russia war has increased concerns about food security. Governments are trying to predict the consequences of the crisis and taking measures to protect their individual interests. Under these hot topics, we wanted to hand the microphone to an authority from the Netherlands, which is a substantial success story in agriculture and livestock. Mr. Henk Flipsen has been the Director of the Dutch Feed Industry Association Nevedi for 15 years. The Netherlands is known for being at the forefront of almost all topics related to the feed industry, such as agriculture, feed production, feed milling technologies and feed additives, fair organization, and EU bureaucracy. We asked Nevedi's director, Henrik Flipsen, about the decline in Dutch feed production, the pros and cons of the structure in the national feed industry, the secret of Dutch companies' success, his concerns about feed/food security and of course the Ukraine-Russia war. One of the six founding members of the European Feed Manufacturers Federation (FEFAC) 63 years ago, Nevedi represents 96 percent of the national feed market. Expressing that he did not agree with some assessments claiming that the five big companies have a bit much share in the Dutch feed market, Flipsen stated that it is a great advantage that big and strong companies have the opportunity to budget R&D studies. Answering the question on his approach to cultured meat, Flipsen said that despite the increase in the demand for animal products, the raw materials are scarce and that the future situation remains uncertain in this regard.

The answers of Henrik Flipsen, Director of Nevedi, to our questions are as follows:

You are the director of Nevedi, the Dutch Feed Industry Association. Can we get to know you better?

Although I now live in the city of Delft with my wife and four children, my roots are in agriculture. Agriculture plays a big role in my live. As a child I grew up at a pig farm. After finishing the HAS university of applied sciences in 1987, I started working in the feed business as a farmers counsellor followed by working for the farmers union LTO-Nederland. In the meantime, I graduated on agricultural economics at Wageningen University. I continued my career as managing director for cooperative businesses in the dairy sector and tree growers. In 2007 I started as director for the Dutch Feed Industry Association (Nevedi).

The Netherlands is a top player in the European compound feed industry. You were among the five founding members of FEFAC in 1959. And Nevedi is well-known to be a proactive association within the EU scale. Can you introduce NEVEDİ to us? What is your role and contribution to the Dutch and European feed sector?

Nevedi protects the interests of the Dutch feed industry. 90 Feed companies and suppliers are associated with Nevedi; manufacturers of compound feed, premixes and additives, milk replacers, moist coproducts etc. Nevedi represent 96% of the feed production for the Dutch market. Nevedi enables members to exercise their business operations optimally and adapt changing requirements and circumstances. Ensuring cohesion in the Dutch animal production chains. Formulating, representing and defending the collective interests such as contribution to GFLI-database for carbon impact calculations on feed, circular economy, biodiversity and stimulating innovations in feed. Of course we put a lot of effort in public affairs. Not only to inform politicians and governments but also to deliver science based information to our chain partners and public.

DUTCH GOVERNMENT AIMS TO REDUCE ANIMAL PRODUCTION

The Netherlands produces around 11 million tons of compound feed per year. However, last year it suffered a %2.1 decrease in parallel with the slight decrease in EU-27 according to a FEFAC report. How would you comment on this? What is the role of decreasing carbon footprint target in this shrinkage, if any?

Dutch farmers face a lot of challenges. Lack of space in combination with public opinion of animal welfare, healthy food, climate or biodiversity. We are aware of this developments and dialogue. In a technical way we have an excellent record. High efficiency, innovations and modern farming result in a low carbon impact and big contribution to circularity. Nevertheless we have to face the reality which includes a decrease of animals in the next coming years. Especially because our government decided to spend a lot of money to reduce de Dutch livestock.

IT TAKES STRONG COMPANIES TO DO R&D AND INNOVATION

There are some criticizing reports on the structure of the Dutch feed industry that the top five companies are holding a pretty large market share. Would you agree with that? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the current structure of the Dutch feed industry in terms of different aspects such as price competition and quality?

The Netherlands does indeed have a number of major players that operate nationally and internationally. I am more positive than critical about that. Due to their size, these large companies have the space to invest in research and development. They make a major contribution to the innovative strength of our sector. It provides knowledge and insights that the market, government and education can build on. In addition to Nevedi, these companies contribute to policy development in the Netherlands to achieve a circular and climate-friendly food system.


Apart from this contribution to the innovation agenda, the Netherlands has a healthy relationship between supply and demand in daily practice. The market is dominated by price and quality. The margins are low and there is plenty of competition. There are 90 feed suppliers. Enough choice for livestock farmers, I think.

CLIMATE IN THE NETHERLANDS IS FAVORABLE FOR LIVESTOCK

When I look at feed-related sectors, I see world-famous Dutch companies in every segment such as compound feed, feed additives, feed milling machinery, and fair organization. Universities and bureaucrats are under the roof of the same success story. What do you owe this success to? What makes the feed industry, the bridge between agriculture and livestock, so primary for the Dutch economy?

The Netherlands has the fortunate circumstance that we are a small country and that the conditions for livestock farming are favorable. We have a world port, well-educated people, healthy soil conditions and a pleasant climate for livestock farming. Animal feed companies, livestock farmers, the food industry. We work physically close to each other. This provides a favorable starting situation for working closely together and for aligning processes. It naturally brings education, research and entrepreneurship together. It is common for us to achieve an affordable, safe and healthy food system in constant dialogue with chain partners, knowledge institutes, governments and social organizations. Optimization with respect for the environment is second nature to us.

INSECTS AS FEED IS PROMISING FOR THE FUTURE

Dutch companies are among the leading players in the innovation “insect as feed”, which is, still far from being one of the mainstream compound feed types in the instant future. What do you think about the today and future of this segment?

The use of insects for feeding livestock is still in a start-up phase, but in terms of market development it is certainly interesting and promising. Insects have a favorable feed conversion. An additional advantage is that insects also need food to survive. This is how you create market on market. As far as I am concerned, there is certainly a chance for the use of insects in the future. The short-term challenge is alignment with legislation, especially in the field of food safety. For example, you cannot grow insects on compost that contains medicine residue. This will have to be looked at carefully and calls for a cooperative attitude from policymakers and politicians. I am also curious what this market will do if the interest from the food segment increases. Margins are lower in the feed industry. In any case, it is a development that I follow with great interest.

INTERNATIONAL DECISIONS NEEDED  ON DEPLOYMENT OF RAW MATERIAL 

The COVID-19 pandemic and now the ongoing war in Ukraine significantly increased the importance of grains and oilseeds, both of which are main feed raw materials. How do you observe and analyze the change in the global perspective on grains, oilseeds?

It is clear that the war is disrupting the global food supply. For example, the current crisis immediately exposes how all countries in the world depend on raw materials and how livestock and vegetable sectors need each other. The loss of part of the production puts trade on edge. This can lead to worrying situations in countries when food is no longer available. International cooperation and decision making of how to deploy available raw materials are necessary. Due to the loss of supply, we also see exponential price increases. Not just for grain, sunflower products, and maize. The prices of alternative raw materials are also rising extremely. This makes you think about the importance of good, sufficient, and affordable food and how we organize that worldwide. Also, in relation to climate goals.


FUTURE OF CULTURED MEAT IS UNCERTAIN

The two phenomena I mentioned in my previous question also maximize the feed security concerns. Do you think the world population is on the verge of a food crisis? Within this scope, what is your point of view on artificial meat?

I find this question difficult to answer. We know that the world population is growing and with it the demand for animal products. It is an enormous task to keep nature, production, and consumption in balance. Raw materials are already scarce. It is difficult to predict how this will develop in the future

AGRICULTURE IN UKRAINE NEEDS TO RECOVER

Do you have anything you would like to add?

The war in Ukraine is terrible. Especially from a humanitarian point of view. I hope that the war will soon be over, and that people can live, work, and do business in Ukraine in freedom again.

As soon as the war is over, recovery of agriculture in Ukraine is needed. This country plays an important role in the global food supply. I express the hope that we as the Netherlands will contribute to the reconstruction of agriculture in Ukraine as soon as the war is over.

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