12 March 1999

Willow answer to EU aid cut

EXPECTED cuts in EU support for cereals and oilseeds have prompted farmers co-op Aberdeen Grain to encourage members to grow short rotation willow coppice.

"With prices for cereals and rapeseed already depressed, and with little room for optimism, we were determined not to sit around waiting for things to get worse but to look for alternative sources of income for our 120 members," managing director, Glyn Whitehead, told a meeting of co-op members on Wednesday.

The move follows a visit to Sweden to see several successful farmer-led biomass power plant projects. A working relationship has already been formed with one of the big power companies in Scotland.

Chairman John Don said the crop was easy to grow, was eligible for EU aid outside the farm policy, and could command a 15-year index-linked contract.

"It is less weather critical, uses minimal fertiliser, and can be harvested on a three-year rotation. A 15-year index-linked contract would also allow forward planning and budgeting impossible with farm crops," he said.

A public meeting on the project is planned for next week (Mar 17) at Thainstone, Inverurie. &#42