Traditional crops can be ‘novel’

FARMERS WHO want to break into the novel crop market should remember they have the option to grow traditional crops but sell them for a different purpose.

Hazel MacTavish, an independent consultant on novel crops, told visitors to Smithfield Show that novel crops were not just things like borage or camomile.

“When we talk about novel crops we shouldn‘t forget there are other uses for traditional crops,” she said.

“Think about alternative varieties you could grow. For example, if you grow vegetables think about ethnic vegetables as an alternative.”

Dr MacTavish said there were plenty of opportunities in the novel crop market as many industries were interested in natural plant-derived materials.

The gross margin for a crop like crambe was around £500-600/ha and for borage it could be as high as £800/ha.

But she warned that buyers were looking for scale and for continued supplies, so growers had to be in it for at least the short to medium term.

“What they want above all is a uniform product with reproducible quality” she said. “Also one acre is interesting but 10ha is more interesting.”

Ken Goodger of Norfolk Essential Oils, a co-op which supplies The Body Shop, said that one of the big benefits of growing crops for oil was the product was not perishable.

But he warned that yields and costs could be extremely variable – while some farmers could get 7 litres of oil from camomile others could only get 3 litres.