Biofuels crops blossom amidst recent farming wash-out

The recent bad weather in the UK has caused an unexpected boost for the North East biofuel industry.

The wet summer has caused problems for many farmers, some of whom have lost their harvests completely. However, many North East farmers are turning to the biofuels industry to recoup costs for otherwise spoiled crops.

Heavy rain reduces the levels of protein in wheat, meaning that it is often no longer suitable for milling. While it may no longer be used for its initial purpose, a viable alternative is for the wheat to be used to produce bioethanol.

Bioethanol is produced when wheat (or other similar crops) are converted into alcohol. It is blended with petrol to meet new government requirements that all transport fuel should include at least 2.5 percent of biofuels.

Oil seed rape is another crop that has been badly hit, but again the biofuels industry are able to use the damaged crops, this time in the production of biodiesel which is a fuel additive derived from the plant oils.

Stan Higgins, CEO of the North East Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC), said: "Our farming colleagues here in the North East are currently grateful that their damaged crops caused by incessant rain have a market in the burgeoning biofuel market. Sprouted rape seed has produced acidic oil which is of no use for food however can be used to produce biodiesel, and low grade wheat which is no good for milling is a ready feedstock for bioethanol."

Local farmer John Seymour said: "It's a huge relief to know there is a still a ready market for our crop here in the North East. Crops of rapeseed and wheat which otherwise would be substandard now have a market. Biofuels are in fact playing the role of intervention by placing a bottom in the market."

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