Dr Martin Alm, Vice President, WRO
Technical Director, EFPRA

As it has been announced that the EFPRA Congress 2020 will now take place in 2021. The Neviso team caught-up with Dr. Martin Alm, to ask for his perspective on the effects of the COVID-19 coronavirus on the rendering industry around the world.

1) Now you are also President of the World Renders Organisation as well as Technical Director of EFPRA, what practices or procedures can EFPRA or WRO members learn from renderers in other parts of the world?

WRO developed two reports: Guidelines for hygienic rendering and Model HACCP Plan in rendering. With these documents, highly developed countries were able to guide developing countries and also the whole industry could improve the safety and quality of globally traded products. This prevents our industry making avoidable errors in our processing and management of animal by-products.

In addition, WRO is the acknowledged partner of OIE, the World Organisation for Animal Health, and is engaged in LEAP “Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance” partnership with FAO. In this engagement, EFPRA will report on the carbon footprint of its products to GFLI. 

The Global Feed LCA Institute (GFLI) is an independent feed industry initiative with the vision to develop a freely and publicly available Feed Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) database and tool to support meaningful environmental assessment of livestock products and to stimulate continuous improvement of the environmental performance in the feed industry. All LCAs are calculated based on LEAP agreements.

2) The EFPRA Congress 2020 has been postponed to 2021. What were to be the big topics at EFPRA 2020? Are there any ‘hot topics’ that ideally would not wait a whole year to be discussed or implemented?

It is indeed a pity that EFPRA had to postpone the whole Congress but under the current circumstances, it was the best decision. In these strange times where many countries have installed a contact ban or even a lockdown, where any travel might imply a 14 days quarantine, other questions became more important. Even when rendering was acknowledged as an essential service and many colleagues can continue to work, uncertainties in many different markets are ongoing. The best example is the biofuel sector: While 2019 the announcement of big players to start co-processing of fats raised huge expectations, the whole sector suffers from reduced traffic and collapsed oil prices. A planned presentation about the fat market would have been a look into a very opaque crystal ball. Other presentations were for example about insect production, pet food and the bio-economy. We hope to welcome all the speakers next year when COVID 19 will not be dictating our lives anymore.

3) What are the biggest challenges to EFPRA or WRO members under the current COVID-19 restrictions that we are all living under?

As said before, rendering continues as essential service. Nevertheless, at the very beginning documents have to be organised to identify our colleagues and allow free movement to work. Moreover new rules on social distancing have to be installed and controlled in the factories. Colleagues working in the administration can very often work from home.

Besides this some markets were in trouble. In Europe, where cement kilns were closed due to a lockdown, cat 1 MBM sales stagnated. Worldwide the biofuel market, a very important outlet for fats, imploded. With the closure of restaurants, bars and hotels also the UCO collection is nearly zero. But this reduced fat supply can still not compensate for the gap in biofuel production. 

4) What solutions have you seen your members implement to overcome these challenges?

In Europe, the lockdown of cement kilns is decided in each country and is time limited. That gives the opportunity to use the intra- community market and to deliver to other member states or to store the Cat 1 MBM locally until cement kilns reopen. The impact on fat is a bigger concern because it will almost certainly last longer. As there is no other option in the EU to use Cat 1 and 2 fats, some producers have started already to burn the fat in their boilers. Outside the EU, fats can still be used for other purposes like feed or in the chemical industry for the production of soaps, surfactants and detergents. Nevertheless in the situation of excessive surplus, there will inevitably be a loss in profitability. Even when the energy costs in rendering are a main cost factor, the reduced oil price will not compensate for the loss in the product sales.

5) How has COVID-19 affected your personal day-to-day work?

I am, anyhow, working from home. But the cancelled and postponed meetings, where you can have the important exchange of views and news, I miss. Of course, e-meetings offer a good opportunity to compensate for this, but not fully. So I guess this will be a really virtual year.

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