Farmer Focus Arable: Biogas plant project research points to new plan, reports Andrew Hunter

At last we are managing to get back to work. After Orthodox holidays in Serbia and the Ukraine it feels like there has been two months of very little activity with many business’s open in theory but in reality doing very little.

The continued cold weather, -17C in Hungary, -32C in the Ukraine, has allowed us to spread some phosphate and potash, which will help reduce spring workloads. Snow cover is variable and I am hoping crops will come through the winter without too many losses. We are also well ahead with machinery maintenance compared with previous years, which should also give us a head start in the spring.

Fertiliser prices seem to be moving upwards, so we’ve bought some ammonium nitrate for £155/t, and also sold some grain into Hungary and Serbia’s slowly rising market. The milk price has slowly improved and is now approaching 22p/litre including various bonuses.

We are working on closing off our 2009 accounts in all three countries and submit business plans to the bank in Hungary and our shareholders.

I have spent a few days in Germany with one of our directors looking at various options for the biogas plant. It was extremely useful, with a much lower cost per kWh of output for plants than what is being spoken about in Hungary.

It looks like we might need to make a modification to our existing planning permission to allow us to build a 500kW/h plant. On paper, growing maize silage for the plant would give us a greater gross margin per hectare than any crop other than potatoes, unless the grain maize price rises over £140/t.

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