15 December 1995

France to take third of EU oilseed quota

FRENCH farmers will soon grow a third of the EU quota of industrial oilseeds, which was fixed in the Blair House agreement. And thousands more hectares of sugar beet and wheat will be grown to produce ethanol.

That is the picture painted by farmer and crop consultant Jonathan Hough, based near Chartres in the southern Paris basin.

He told this weeks Crops/ AgrEvo "One Step Ahead" conference that 375,000ha (926,600 acres) of industrial oilseed rape was cut last harvest. Nearly 10% more is predicted in 1996. "At the present rate France will soon be growing 1-1.5m hectares, he said." Biofuel is the main market, taking 73% of production. Most of the rest goes for erucic acid.

The crop has benefited from a willingness of state and private sectors to invest in new tech- nology, said Mr Hough. Diester diesel additive is produced in four factories, the newest one costing £20.4m.

France also has several years experience in industrial ethanol production, added Mr Hough. "Even in the 1980s several co-ops were producing alcohol from sugar beet."

When mixed with isobutane, ethanol forms ETBE. Up to 15% of that can be added to unleaded fuel to reduce both carbon monoxide and unburnt hydrocarbon emissions.

Elf was the first big name to take advantage of Frances cut in biofuel tax, opening an ETBE plant at Feyzin in 1993. Elf and Total plan to build four further plants by the end of the decade, said Mr Hough.

70% of supply would come from sugar beet, and the other 30% from 24,000ha (59,300 acres) of industrial wheat grown on set-aside. &#42

French industrial crop gross margins (£/ha)



Yield (t/ha)37.5

Price (£/t)10579

Area payment383383


Variable costs194243

Gross margin505732