4 April 1997

Think hard on facts before a switch to flax

FARMERS chasing additional support by switching from linseed on set-aside to flax should consider the longer-term implications, says Melvyn Askew of ADAS.

"Flax and linseed are essentially the same crop. But UK farmers have shifted away from growing linseed on set-aside land in order to gain benefit from the extra support associated with flax," he says.

Figures issued from the Intervention Board indicate a 10-fold increase in the area of flax grown since 1993 – from 2190ha (5412 acres) to 20,250ha (50,038 acres) . Conversely, in the past two years there has been more than a 60% decline in the area of linseed grown on set-aside – from 15,532ha (38,380 acres) in 1994 to 5466ha (13,506 acres) in 1996.

"The essence of industrial crops is long-term supply stability in return for long-term reasonable prices. Gaining short-term advantage by switching to crops that offer more subsidy wont help," stresses Mr Askew.

&#8226 More on industrial crops on p79.

Flax or linseed?

Industrial linseed on set-aside


Crop value261

Set-aside aid*338


Variable costs171

Gross margin428

Short fibre flax


Crop value230



Variable costs223

Gross margin598

Source: The Agricultural Budgeting & Costing Book, Nov 1996. Apart from * source: MAFF.