GROUND WORKS have started on Teesside for a new 250,000t, £25m Biofuels Corporation biodiesel plant, but no contracts are yet in place.

It is hoped the plant will be open by early summer 2005 and a consortium of farmers, input suppliers and the petrochemical industry is investigating the possibility of building a new crusher to supply the plant.

The consortium, North East Biofuels, hopes that farmers in the northeast will be able to provide 25-40% of the plant‘s oilseed rape requirement, although no contracts have been signed for 2005.

But, the consortium has trialled a three-year fixed-price-per-hectare contract for farmers to grow oilseed rape, this summer and talks are underway for 2006 contracts.

“We put a draft contract together and sent it to about 30 known growers,” said NE Biofuels‘ John Seymour.

“Most said they liked it, but didn‘t feel the market was ready for such an approach – they want to see the plant built first.”

Under the proposed contract inputs would be supplied free of charge and the farmer obliged to grow the crop to the best of his ability, he explained.

The contracts are not solely reliant on the crusher going ahead, Mr Seymour said.

“If we don‘t build the crusher, we‘ll have to get the rapeseed crushed elsewhere. But if we do build it, we can offer better terms to growers.”

More detailed information can be found in FWi‘s new non-food crops focus, FARMERS WEEKLY (Nov 12) and Crops (Nov 13).