11 February 2000

Anglian boost for novel crops

NOVEL crops are getting a major boost in East Anglia through a new EU/MAFF-funded project to develop the husbandry, processing and marketing of a host of alternative crops.

Funded through the EUs East Anglian Objective 5b programme and matched with MAFF money it will invest £196,000 over 18 months to create opportunities for crops as diverse as sweet potatoes, medicinal herbs, vegetable proteins and industrial feedstocks.

A survey of over 7000 farmers shows more than 60% of local farmers are seeking alternative income opportunities, says Sally Runham for ADAS, the projects lead consultant.

"Processors and buyers will gain confidence that they can rely on East Anglian farmers to supply their raw materials in the quantities needed to satisfy their markets. Currently many of the raw materials are sourced from abroad, but could be replaced by local produce," she says.

Typical of the industry partners involved is Sandra Hooper of Soham-based Bean Thinking. As a participating processor she is already keen to procure more Prim beans, a type developed in the UK to offer high protein content, better digestibility and less bloating than conventional types. Hospital caterers are particularly interested.