Europe's protein crop area expanded by 38% in comparison with 2014/2015, figures from the European Commission's Short-Term Outlook shows.

It attributes favourable policy environment and low cereal and oilseed prices to the rise.

In Spain, Germany and Lithuania both the broad bean and field bean area doubled. The field pea area also nearly doubled in Germany while it increased fivefold in Lithuania, it found.

The Commission expects a stabilisation of the area given the expected pressure on feed prices in general for the marketing year 2016/2017.

Meanwhile in Ireland, with the introduction of the Protein Aid Scheme, the production of protein crops by tillage farmers surged by 300% in 2015, the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney said last year.

Peas, beans and lupins all qualify for the scheme and the Minister announced that in order to fully utilise the €3m set-aside for this Scheme, he increased the rate of aid that applied in 2015 from €250 to €280/ha.

Referring to the importance of protein crops as a break crop in the context of crop rotation at the outset of the scheme, the Minister said the scheme now gave an incentive for the industry and all relevant stakeholders to grow this sector by developing crop varieties that are best suited for Irish conditions coupled with more stable market outlets.

At the time, the Minister added that a consistent supply of protein, grown in Ireland, would potentially give Irish livestock farmers the opportunity to use more natively produced protein feed and to market their produce in higher value markets.