BIODIESEL and bioethanol markets are both crucial to meeting future energy needs and contribute an estimated £1bn to the UK economy, the NFU said this week.

It followed a series of meetings between the NFU’s biofuel delegation and the key players in the industry, starting with Norman Baker, Secretary of State for Transport and culminating with a visit to bioethanol producers Ensus on Teesside.

The NFU believes the two markets must co-exist to drive improvements in yields, the environment and on-farm efficiencies, and are vital for a sustainable, thriving local market for both wheat and animal feed.

Brett Askew, NFU combinable crops board member, said: “Ensus and Vivergo (at Hull) will provide an important domestic market for UK feed wheat, allowing farmers to hedge their sales and reduce the risk of being exposed to highly volatile commodity markets.

“This goes hand-in-hand with the biodiesel industry, which – already worth an estimated £600m at the farm gate – has seen an increase in production of oilseed rape yields of around 25 per cent over the past 11 years, and is a growing market.

“The future of the two industries are linked together in a way that means government must take them seriously, and that is the point we made to the Secretary of State for Transport when we met with him.

“EU biofuels drive up sustainability standards around the world as any feedstock used in EU biofuel production must be certified sustainable.”

Mr Askew said the government must give a solid commitment to biofuel production in the UK which currently imports 80 per cent of the high protein animal feed used in livestock, pig and poultry production each year.

He said: “The biofuel industry can become one of the most important markets for British agriculture. It has the potential for us to become more self-sufficient in high protein animal feed and import less from outside the UK, while providing an important floor in the market for our arable farmers.”