Struggle ahead for EUoilseeds conference told

24 December 1999




Struggle ahead for EUoilseeds conference told

By Andrew Swallow

OILSEEDS as commodity crops in the UK and Europe face a bleak future, delegates at last weeks Association of Applied Biologists conference were told. Growers and the trade need to work together to develop added-value for both oils and meal.

On a variable cost basis UK oilseed rape costs more to produce than Eastern European or Canadian crops, warned Semundos Chris Green (see table above). "And then you have to put in our fixed costs. You can see that we are not competitive."

Support levels for European oilseed production will be threatened by EU enlargement and the World Trade Organisation, he continued.

The so called "peace clause" on agricultural support ends in 2003, allowing the US and the Cairns group to challenge the CAP unhindered. Both aim to reduce or eliminate production and export supports through the WTO talks.

"They are two big power brokers with very similar wish lists. What chance do you think Europe has?" he asked.

However, the UK should not rely on imported oilseeds to supply its crushing plants, since the suppliers would switch to selling the oil, rather than the raw material, and break the UK industry, he warned.

Instead, growers, merchants and crushers should work on developing and marketing alternative, high value uses for vegetable oils and meals.

"The future profit must be in the added-value oils. Leave the commodity production to the large-scale countries," he urged.

Mr Greens views were echoed by Melvyn Askew, head of alternative crops and biotechnology at the Central Science Laboratory. "There are real markets for non-food products. Add these together and it is a very large amount of rapeseed," he said (see table)

RAPESEED COSTS

Yield VarCosts

(t/ha) £/t

Canada 2 49

Hungary 1.8 55

Poland 2.8 60

UK 3.6 74

EU RENEWABLE OIL POTENTIAL

Market 000t oil/year

2-stroke oil 75

Machine tools 570

Oils/hydraulic oils 450

Total loss oils 30

Heavy lubricants 100

Rapeseed costs

Yield VarCosts

(t/ha) £/t

Canada 2.0 49

Hungary 1.8 55

Poland 2.8 60

UK 3.6 74


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