Frustrated farmers stash grain due to EU delay

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Farmers have been struck by severe delays which are leaving some of the worst affected with stockpiles of grain, the country’s farming union said.

British grain crops that meet Red Tractor quality assurance standards can no longer enter the European biofuels market, because the scheme that allowed this to happen expired earlier this month.

An application for the scheme to be renewed - a routine process every five years - was submitted in February by Assured Food Standards, the body which licenses the Red Tractor quality mark, but the European Commission failed to rule on its reapproval before the scheme expired.

The biofuels market is seen as a key outlet for UK growers as the income it generates can help offset volatile commodity prices.

Oilseed rape is used to produce biodiesel and about 40 per cent of all of the crop produced in the UK is exported for biofuel production in other EU countries.

Mike Hambly, combinable crops board chairman at the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), called for the Commission to publish its decisions on either a temporary solution or full approval of the scheme.

The matter had now become “critical” for farmers, he said.

“It is vital for the arable industry that the European Commission recognises these concerns and provides a solution after this needless delay in re-approval.

“This is a very disruptive situation for farmers who are finding themselves unable to have their grain collected by merchants and, in some cases, having to accommodate temporary storage for this produce.”

Mr Hambly said the NFU had raised the matter within the Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy and will continue to do so - and he urged the UK’s representatives in Brussels to do likewise as a matter of urgency.

Mr Hambly added: “The NFU is confident the Commission has no substantive reason to cause further delay. To our knowledge, there are no questions about the scheme outstanding.”