Farmers in East Anglia are looking at ways to add value to their 60,000t rapeseed crop by cold pressing it to extract high quality oil.

An initial report commissioned by 220 members of Framlingham Farmers, Dengie Crops and Atlas Agriculture has focused on selling the oil as high quality branded cooking oil through the multiple retailers, in the same way as olive oil.

Roger Adshead, chief executive of Framlingham Farmers was upbeat about exploiting the £800m a year cooking oil market by stressing the health benefits of rape oil, which is low in saturates and high in Omega 3, 6 and 9.

“You can add value to rape oil in small quantities, but we want to do it in bulk. There has been some entrepreneurial activity by individuals in this area, but nothing wholesale yet.”

Farmer Sam Fairs of Hillfarm Oils is a trailblazer in this area, selling the oil from 30t of rapeseed through farmers’ markets, local delis, selected Waitrose stores and online.

Though it retails for £12/litre, he says it is a tough sell. “It is very difficult to convince people that olive oil is not the healthiest oil.”

The co-ops are aware of the massive promotional push that would be necessary to launch rape oil on a larger scale, and they are also looking at other potential uses as a marine lubricant and in the printing industry.

Consultants will deliver a more detailed report by mid-2006, but biodiesel had already been ruled out because it was not financially viable to manufacture it from cold pressed rape oil.