Britain’s farmers have the capacity to seize the new opportunities
presented by the rapidly growing biofuels market without any adverse
implications for food production, according to the NFU.
In an analysis of the land that will be required to meet the Government’s
target of a 5 per cent inclusion of bioethanol and biodiesel in
road transport fuel by 2010, the NFU has calculated around 900,000
hectares of land will be needed.
However, that corresponds almost exactly to the 375,000 ha of
land that is currently being used for the production of feed wheat
surplus to UK domestic requirements, which has to be exported,
plus the 559,000 ha of mandatory set-aside, most of which could
be used to produce oilseed rape for biodiesel.
This calculation takes into account the fact only part of the
crop is used for biofuel production and around 2.4 million tonnes
of so-called “co-products” – distillers’ grains
from wheat and rape meal from oilseed – will be available
for animal feed.
The NFU paper ‘UK biofuels - land required to meet RTFO
2010’ goes on to argue that technological advances in the
production of biofuels will allow output to be stepped up still
further, without compromising food production capacity.
It is calling on the Government to extend the existing Road Traffic
Fuel Obligation targets to the EU target of 5.75 per cent by energy,
which equates to 7.5 to 8 per cent by volume.
NFU Vice-President Paul Temple said recent claims from multi-national
food processors that growing crops for fuel would lead to food
shortages and soaring prices were nothing more than scaremongering.
He said: “It is quite clear from the figures there is more
than sufficient spare capacity in British farming to meet the growing
demand for biofuels without compromising food production.
“The biofuels market will mean that, overall, there is a
tighter balance between supply and demand for grains and oilseeds
and food processors and others will no longer enjoy the luxury
of being able to buy their raw materials at below the cost of production.
“But that does not imply shortages and huge increases in
food prices. The price the farmer receives for his cereals and
oilseeds represents only a tiny proportion of what the consumer
pays for the finished product, so even a significant lift in farmgate
prices should have very little impact at retail level.
“Against that, the biofuels market will mean that Britain’s
farmers are making a really worthwhile contribution to the reduction
in carbon emissions, as well as generating significant numbers
of new jobs.
“It is a win, win, win opportunity – for the climate,
for farmers and for the economy.”
The NFU paper quotes research from the East of England Development
Agency indicating that around 2.5 farming jobs will be created
or sustained for every 1,000 tonnes of biofuel produced. A 100,000
tonne plant could create/sustain some 60 to 80 jobs directly and
underpin as many as 550 jobs on the land.
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