17 April 1997

Animal fat alternatives are sought

GROWING demand for vegetable oils to replace animal fats in consumer products ranging from cosmetics to pharmaceuticals is said to partly underly a closer relationship between a company farming 20,000ha (50,000 acres) and a specialist merchant.

Broadoak Farming and Essex-based specialist merchant John K King & Sons have united to explore high margin niche alternatives to traditional combinable crops.

The move will see about 120ha (300 acres) of field trials on crops such as meadowfoam, camelina and crambe grown this year on five sites from Berwick to Hants. Field scale production of high laurate genetically modified oilseed is also being evaluated.

As setting standards

The three-year link up, underpinned with more than £100,000 of MAFF market development scheme cash, is seen as setting standards for other market oriented, consumer focused producer/processor relationships. John King is owned by primary processor Associated British Foods.

Broadoak grew its first high erucic oilseeds three years ago, notes chief executive, Peter Johnson. "Developments in this area are coming thick and fast. I would not be surprised to see us with 3000 acres of such crops within five years."

With the exception of oilseed rape none of the novel crops under trial attract area aid, notes Andrew Hebard, managing director of John King.