Food industry anxious over rising rapeseed demand

By Anita Awbi

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Rapeseed oil, European union, Eu

A growing conflict between the food industry and biofuel
manufacturers over rapeseed oil supply will be resolved at EU
parliamentary level, as members decide the future of edible oil
distribution.

Rapeseed oil, for margarines, sauces, and general food use, has become the focus of heated debate between the European food sector and biodiesel advocates. Biofuel producers blend the oil with conventional diesel to provide a greener alternative for the EU transport sector.

Current recommendations state that 2.5 per cent of transport fuel across the bloc should be edible oil derived, to meet Kyoto CO2 targets, lower carbon emissions and reduce energy import bills.

Possible mandatory biofuel regulations lie on the table in Brussels, which will increase the biofuel objective to 5.7 per cent by 2010, making it a mandatory requirement across the EU member states.

Encouraging the use of biofuel is seen as an intermediate step to reduce the dangerously high levels of greenhouse gases produced by the transport sector each year currently at more than 20 per cent of total European CO2 output.

But sceptics claim the food industry will suffer as it competes for limited resources of rapeseed.

Inneke Herreman, of the International Margarine Association of the Countries of Europe, (IMACE), told FoodandDrinkEurope.com​: Up to 58 per cent of total rapeseed oil made in the EU 25 countries is used for biofuel, and this corresponds to two per cent of total biofuel used in transport.

In other words, to achieve the 2010 directive, the rapeseed oil needed would surpass all EU provisions. This development would have a major impact on our industry.

IMACE, which supports Europes biggest margarine producer Unilever, claims that while there are no shortages as yet, rapeseed prices have shot up in the past couple of years and there is less available for food producers.

Raphaelo Garofalo, secretary general of the European Biodiesel Board (EBB) acknowledged there was a conflict between the food industry and the biofuel contingent. But he insisted that the fears of the margarine industry are groundless.

Today it has the choice between many raw materials not just rapeseed. Rapeseed is less than 40 per cent of their ingredients. And they can replace it.

The margarine industry has been declining in Europe for 10 years but biodiesel has only begun growing for four or five years. Now food producers are attracting interest in their views but we are not the cause of their decline,​ he added.

And responding to claims that rapeseed oil prices have risen since the biofuel revolution began, Garofalo said there has to be a ceiling price for the raw material to keep biodiesel cheaper or a similar price at the pump than conventional diesel.

Moreover, he disputed forecast shortages, saying: The industry in terms of capacity is already well equipped and is building all the time. There is no bottleneck for the future. Across Europe farmers are increasing production and new crushing facilities have been planned.

But pressure has been ratcheted up as the EU GM debate drones on, and consumer aversion to imported GM soya bean oil and rapeseed oil continues leaving fewer ingredient choices for the food industry.

Herreman believes that European rapeseed stocks should be available primarily for food producers, leaving other GM sources for the biodiesel industry.

But while the European Commission supports mandatory targets, and the European parliament have also backed this motion, only member states are left to make a stand.

Italy and Austria have already adopted mandatory systems and France, Germany and the UK may be set to join the biofuel revolution, claims the EBB.

Last year three million tonnes of rapeseed-derived biodiesel was manufactured in the EU, and this figure has been increasing by 35 per cent year on year.

Related topics: Market Trends, Fats & oils

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