24 April 1998
Spanish ethanol to boost UK wheat exports?

By Robert Harris

A SPANISH company seeking almost 300,000 t of cereals to make a petrol additive says much of the demand could be met by UK growers – if the price is right.

Ecocarburantes, based at near Valencia, will start using cereal starch to produce ethanol, next January. The companys eventual aim is to source all its needs from Spanish crops grown. But it will be at least three to four years before that happens.

Just 5,000ha of the correct wheat is being grown in Spain this year, producing about 11,000 t of grain. The remainder will be sourced on the open market.

UK soft feed wheat is especially attractive because is contains more starch than better quality high protein grain. It is also cheaper than most Continental wheat with an FOB price of £70/ t – equivalent to £63-64/ t ex farm at a maximum moisture content of 14%.

The price may be low, but UK traders approached by Ecocarburantes believe more money may be forthcoming if the wheat suits the factorys needs. And the EU could provide generous subsidies to farmers growing crops for renewable energy as part of the Agenda 2000 reforms.