Bio-ethanol ‘could eat into bread supply’

Biofuel subsidies could leave Britain with bread shortages as wheat is diverted to bio-ethanol production, the national millers' association has warned.

British transport fuel suppliers are required to bring the amount of biofuel in their product up to 5% by 2010 under the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO).

Biofuel subsidies are prompting an increasing number of farmers to switch from the high quality wheat needed for bread flour to a lower grade variety that is cheaper to grow and is used to make biofuels.

But the subsidies hailed a blessing for British farmers by some could take wheat away from food production and harm agriculture in the long run, an official from the National Association of British and Irish Millers warned this week.

“It’s crucial that we don’t create a monster which becomes dependent purely on subsidy,” the official told a conference organised by the Home-Grown Cereals Authority.

“It would be very easy to go too far, too fast and create some enormous imbalances in supply and demand,” the official said.

“The big risk…is the importing of finished products. When you start bringing biscuit and bread in, you’re not only looking at the potential demise of the UK milling industry, but you’re potentially taking out the market permanently.

“The use of grain for fuel will have its place, but in the end it will be a small place.”

Clare Wenner of the Renewable Fuel Association said that the level of biofuel production required by the RTFO could be sustained by the wheat surplus Britain currently exports, which amounts to 2 million tonnes.

“You’re really not looking at much of a challenge,” she said.

As for the subsidies – she said this is “all part of the cost of internalising the saving of the planet.”

Goska Romanowicz

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