13 October 1999
£50m windfall for rapeseed growers?

By Vicky Houchin

BRITISH oilseed rape producers are expected to receive a mammoth £50 million boost this year if recent European Commission figures are confirmed.

The extra payment is on the cards because less oilseed rape than expected was grown across the whole of the European Union last season.

Provisional estimates show the EU area of oilseed food crops amounted to 4.855 million hectares in 1998/99.

The MGA ceiling of 4.934m ha set by the Blair House Agreement is the maximum amount the EU is allowed to grow under international trade rules.

If the EU figures are confirmed, this would be the first time in three years that production has avoided penalty aid reductions by undershooting the Maximum Guaranteed Area (MGA).

But that has not been reached and as a result British growers should receive an extra £127/ha for the 1999 harvest, said the National Farmers Union.

Final confirmation of the figures is expected in January and adjusted final payments will be made in March 2000.

Rad Thomas, chairman of the EC Standing Committee on Oilseeds said : “This is welcome news for UK oilseed producers at a time when incomes are being knocked extremely hard particularly because of the strength of Sterling.

“As important is the fact that the year 2000 harvest will begin with a clean slate so that even if there is an overshoot of the EU production limit there will be no accumulated penalties carried over from this year.”