Alert from Italian feed producers for raw materials
With corn and soy in short supply on international markets, it will end up that Italian feed producers will have to compete for waste from wheat processing and distilleries with the bioenergy industry. In short, either we will deprive the pigs of food, or we will give up biomethane and biodiesel for machinery. «Already today the by-products of agro-industrial processes make up a third of the ingredients that make up our feed - says Silvio Ferrari, president of Assalzoo, the association that brings together the industries in the sector - if we wanted to increase their share, we would have to contend for the raw material with those who produces bioenergy. These are fierce competitors and also well supported by subsidies: the Government will have to help us divert waste towards our industry, if the situation on international markets should become complicated».
How things will really stand, that is, if the flutter of the shortage of corn and soy in South America will generate a storm on Italian farms, we will only find out after the summer. And if indeed the drought in Argentina were to lead to a significant lack of raw material and skyrocketing prices on international markets, wheat or wine waste will certainly not be enough to save things. Thus, the alert among the insiders is maximum.
Every year in Italy 15.5 million tons of feed are produced, for which corn and soy are the two main ingredients. Where do we get them? Our dependence on foreign countries is high: «Two years ago - explains Giulio Usai, economic manager of Assalzoo - Italy produced 50% of the corn it needed. Last year, also due to the drought, there was a drastic drop, and now we are only 30-35% self-sufficient". All the rest, 90% comes from Eastern Europe. As far as soy is concerned, although our country is the largest European producer, the national harvest is able to guarantee only 700,000 of the 3.6 million tons of flour needed each year. Plus or minus 20%. The rest comes from South America: the soy in the form of flour is almost all from Argentina, the one in the form of seeds is almost all from Brazil. And practically all GMOs, «just as the EU has authorized to do since 1996», recalls Usai.
What will happen then in Italy, if the drought has really halved the harvest of Argentina, which is among the world's leading producers of soybeans and corn? While the impact will be immediate for soybeans, it will be indirect for corn: today, in fact, water is not only lacking in South American fields, but there is also the risk of not being present in those in Italy and those in Eastern Europe. Prices will inevitably rise: «Last year - Usai recalled - also thanks to speculation, corn had reached 400 euros per ton, from the 170 it traditionally cost. This week, the Milan Stock Exchange fell below the threshold of 300 euros». If things go badly, we risk returning to the peaks of 2022. A big problem for Italian farmers: feed represents 70% of the production costs of a pig.
Among the insiders, however, there are also those who are more optimistic. Ai Consorzi agrari d'Italia, for example, argue that the drop in the production of corn and soybeans in some important regions of Argentina, caused by drought, should be compensated at the national level by the productions of Brazil and the United States, which analysts forecast on the rise: "If these international conditions that are beginning to be foreseen should be confirmed by the facts - they write - we believe that no major changes for the market and prices in our country should be foreseen".