RECENTLY APPOINTED head of the government’s biomass taskforce, Ben Gill, believes there is a good future for UK non-food crops under CAP reform.

“I am quite clear that within 10 years we will be looking back at the turn of the century, considering the quaint old-fashioned concept of set-aside and wondering how it survived as long as it did,” says Sir Ben, former NFU president.

“Why? Because the demands on land are set to rise for non-food crops in general in an attempt to ration our use of non-renewable energy resources.

“Land will be pressed into use, not just to produce energy, but to replace the raw materials for much of our industry that are currently based on petroleum.”

advances

With biomass specifically, where significant agronomic advances have been made in the past decade, there is a risk that the industry may follow the route of other commodity-traded arable crops, he warns. That is because the size of the operators in the chain is similar.

However, the market for producing heat for district heating systems is growing, offering groups of biomass producers a chance to retain a bigger share of the rewards, he says.

“All growers of biomass, whether established or new, should not sell themselves short.”