Region’s Wheat Farmers Boosted By East Yorkshire Biorefinery
An East Yorkshire biorefinery, Vivergo, is boosting the fortunes of wheat farmers in the region to the value of £1m per month, on the back of an improved UK wheat harvest.
Vivergo, one of Europe’s largest producers of bioethanol and protein rich animal feed, has created a new market for UK animal feed grade wheat, supporting local farmers and creating agricultural jobs in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.
Historically, much of the feed grade wheat grown in the region has been exported into mainland Europe to feed animals and for use in European biofuel production. However, since Vivergo opened its £350m plant last year at Saltend, near Hull, the region’s farmers have been taking advantage of an alternative and financially beneficial market for their wheat.
And now with a wheat harvest back to pre-2012 levels, the region’s farmers are expected to benefit by approximately £1m every month, as opposed to the export value previously achieved, as Vivergo ramps up its operations with a view to running at full production capacity later this year.
The company uses 1.1m tonnes of animal feed grade wheat per year, which is commonly used for animal consumption, to make renewable transport fuel and protein rich animal feed for UK livestock.
Given Vivergo’s location at the heart of the UK’s wheat belt, the company aims to source animal feed grade wheat from local farms within a 50-mile radius, significantly boosting the agricultural sector. Vivergo is also playing a vital role in boosting the wider economy, with a recent economic assessment revealing that, once at full production, the company will contribute £600m to the UK economy every year.
Rick Taylor, commercial director at Vivergo, said: “The UK has historically had a wheat surplus, exporting between 2.5 and 3m tonnes a year. As the UK’s biggest wheat buyer, we offer a 365 day demand for local arable farmers, providing a new sales channel, often giving more competitive rates for their feed-wheat as opposed to the previous export of this commodity.
“Not only are we supporting local farmers, but we’re also bolstering the UK economy by creating around 2,400 jobs so far, with this figure set to increase to around 3,800 once the plant is at full production later this year. Many of those jobs will be in the agricultural sector.”
Wheat farmer John Holtby, who runs Dowthorpe Hall Farm, at Skirlaugh, just a few miles from the Vivergo biorefinery, said: “With on farm and UK wheat production returning to normal levels, to have a local home for our feed wheat is invaluable.”
National Farmers’ Union Deputy President, Minette Batters, said: “The UK biofuels industry has an important role to play in adding value to UK arable crops such as feed wheat and oilseed rape. Vitally the industry also produces a high protein animal feed. With consistent levels of production, the industry has the ability to help shelter livestock farmers from the volatility of global commodity markets and reduce UK dependency on imported soya.”
As well as producing 420m litres of bioethanol per year – enough to meet around half of the UK’s current demand, the Vivergo plant will also produce up to 500,000 tonnes of animal feed once fully operational, providing the protein requirement for approaching 20% of the UK’s dairy cows.
Rick Taylor concluded: “It is essential that the UK government is supportive in terms of legislation to increase the current bioethanol blending ratio, so that Vivergo and other UK producers can continue to provide a long term, sustainable and stable future market for UK farmers.”
Currently, up to 5% of bioethanol is blended with regular petrol at the pump. By 2020, the UK must ensure that 10% of our transport fuel is sourced from renewable sources.