Challenges of a new decade – interview

The EFPRA Congress takes place on 25 – 28 May at Vilamoura, Portugal. We spoke to Wouter Vanderpoorten, Technical Director at ETSA who is overseeing the organisation of Congress. He has worked in the Portuguese rendering industry for 28 years since moving from Belgium during his post-graduate studies.

Can you tell us a little about ETSA and the Portuguese rendering industry?

ETSA is the largest rendering company in Portugal, where three other rendering companies are active. In Portugal the rendering industry is characterised by a large number of collection points for material but smaller volumes. ETSA tend to export mixed species PAP outside Europe, while rendered fat goes into feed and biodiesel. Category 1 MBM is incinerated for energy recovery. 

Congress has been postponed twice; will it definitely go ahead this time?

It’s third time lucky, we’ve been through the process twice already. We did a lot of preparation in 2020 and 2021 so most things were already in place for 2022. We are happy and confident it will go ahead as planned and look forward to seeing our industry colleagues in the Algarve.

The theme of the event is ‘Challenges of a new decade’, what do you see as the biggest challenges?

It hasn’t got any easier since we started planning in 2019. First the pandemic and now exceptionally high material prices and war. I think energy prices will be a huge issue for the rest of the decade, fossil fuel prices will remain high.

Fossil fuel use is obviously closely linked to sustainability and efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. Renderers are part of the solution as we recapture valuable resources in animal by-products and many facilities reuse waste heat. Current high prices mean there is a big financial incentive to improve energy efficiency as well as the environmental benefits.

Animal health is obviously at the heart of our industry. There has been an increase in avian influenza reported last winter in Europe. But as the Covid pandemic showed, major new disease threats can appear out of nowhere, so we have to be vigilant and prepared.

Are high prices an opportunity or threat for renderers?

As always it goes both ways. The value of rendered fat is obviously linked to the oil price and animal proteins are linked to feed prices which are both high. But the cost of energy, transport and raw materials increases. In Portugal, I can say that we see competition for raw materials from our rival companies here and in nearby Spain, so each rendering company has quite a lot of work to ensure they have an economically and environmentally sustainable business in the years ahead.

Thinking about wider opportunities, the Green New Deal is benefiting the animal by-products sector. For example, there seems to be more demand for fertilisers derived from ABPs. I also think that RED 3 is beneficial to the rendering sector.

Last year saw the partial lifting of the PAP feed ban, what difference has this made?

There has not been a direct effect for ETSA. We produce multi-species PAP which was not affected by the recent changes in the rules. What we can see is that there has been a change in demand for multi-species PAP as some single species begins to be used in animal feed.

What topics and speakers are planned for Congress?

I am pleased to say we have a wide range of speakers, and everything is very topical. We will deal with some difficult subjects, for example Gert van Duinkerken of Wageningen Livestock Research will discuss whether a circular bioeconomy can do without animals. We’ll also hear from experts in insect biotechnology, ABP in fertiliser regulation, petfood, international animal fat markets and from Fernando Ventura of Jerónimo Martins – one of the main food retailers and distributors in Portugal. More details of the Congress programme are available here

Apart from the speakers, what else can delegates look forward to at Congress?

Algarve is a fantastic venue for a congress, by the end of May the weather will be good, and we have fantastic locations for the social programme. I can see from the bookings that some delegates are coming a little early or staying a bit longer, I expect it might be many people’s first holiday after the pandemic. Furthermore, a digital platform will allow participants to get in touch with one another in a very convenient way.

Are there many places still available?

Over 270 delegates have booked so far. We expect more but I suppose some people will wait until nearer to the date to be sure the event is happening and that they are allowed to travel, but we ask people not to postpone their registration because hotels are getting full and booking will be closed in the beginning of April. I am looking forward to the event and I’m certain it will be a success.