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Stackyard News Aug 06

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Biofuel crops pose no threat to UK food production

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.

oilseed rape

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.

link NFU Scotland Potato Campaign Begins at Perth Show
link NFU 2006 arable crops survey launched
link New Utility Brassica Can Counter Grazing Shortages
link Crop Market Update

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