East Anglia’s rapeseed surplus is heading for export markets

A large grain vessel is loaded at King's Lynn Docks. Pictured are grain silo superintendent Ben Mill

A large grain vessel is loaded at King's Lynn Docks. Pictured are grain silo superintendent Ben Miller and Andy Austin from Openfield. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

After the success of the second memorable harvest in a row, grain marketers are stepping up their efforts to find export customers for the UK's surplus.

And while wheat and barley might dominate the trading, the oilseed rape crop is still a significant part of East Anglia's rotation – although analysts predict its volumes could decline sharply next year.

The UK's oilseed rape production this year is estimated at 2.3m tonnes, with an exportable surplus of 300,000 tonnes – of which 120,000 tonnes has already left our shores.

This week, a 2,500-tonne vessel was loaded at King's Lynn docks which was the fifth boat of the season to leave laden with rapeseed sold by grain co-operative Openfield, all headed to the European hub at Rotterdam.

But according to Defra's harvest analysis, this year's crop is 5.3pc smaller than last year's, reflecting a lower planted area in the wake of the 2012 ban on neonicotinoids pesticides due to concerns over their potential impact on bee health.

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And Norfolk-based purchasing co-operative Anglia Farmers, which supplies about 10pc of the nation's oilseed rape seed, has reported a decline in sales which suggested next year's crop could drop by a further 10-15pc.

Traders hope the reduction in supply could prompt a recovery in prices for the next harvest.

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Andy Austin, farm business manager at Openfield's office in Bressingham, near Diss, said: 'We have had a successful start to the season moving rapeseed out of the country, but shipping the remaining surplus will help underpin domestic prices.

'Our relationship with ABP (Associated British Ports) and the King's Lynn facility is a very strong one and we hope to be able to make further sales as the season progresses.

'With the anticipated UK crop area dropping once again for next season, we would hope that this will help prices for harvest 2016.'

A spokesman for ABP, which operates the facility at King's Lynn, said there had been a 45pc increase in wheat and barley exports to short-sea destinations this year, following equipment upgrades which have doubled handling speeds at the terminal. But he said there had been 'no significant change' to rapeseed volumes.

Has your food business found new markets for its produce? Contact chris.hill@archant.co.uk.

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