OILSEED RAPE growers are being offered contracts to supply the UK‘s first purpose-built rapeseed biodiesel crushing plant.

Centaur Grain is offering members Energy Rape contracts for the 2005 harvest.

The company, which markets over 1.5m tonnes of combinable crops, has been appointed sole supplier to Global Commodities, the UK‘s largest biodiesel manufacturer.

Global Commodities claims to be just weeks away from signing an agreement to secure a site for a new biodiesel plant in the Eastern counties which will produce 180m litres of biodiesel a year.

The company already makes 12m litres a year of biodiesel from recycled vegetable oil at its plant in Shipdham, Norfolk.

Dennis Thouless, Global Commodities chairman, said: “The alliance is excellent news for the biodiesel industry and will empower British farmers to turn their fields into the oilfields of the future.”

Peter Lanario, Centaur‘s group chief executive, said the move represented a major opportunity for UK farmers and would provide the buyer with a  secure supply.

“World commodity markets are becoming more volatile and producers are realising the benefits of sustainable, long-term contracts that provide mutual benefits for themselves and consumers.”

Mr Thouless said the £10m factory would be built in about 18 months, with a 60m-litre capacity in its first year rising to three times that after three years.

“We will be signing in the next four to six weeks for a site which already has planning permission for industrial use.”