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Great feedback at our grower forums

Posted in: by Alex Robinson on 18 February 2016

After a busy few weeks running our forums for growers throughout the UK, we're pleased with some great attendance and constructive feedback. Working closely with our growers is of utmost importance, and these forums give us a chance to knowledge share in best practice techniques and update farmers on company news.

For each of the four forums, run in Yorkshire, East Anglia, the South West, and West Midlands, the average attendance was around 25 growers, a really great turn-out.

2015 review

In review of 2015, we were pleased to communicate that 100% of the crop was harvested within the specification required - this is a fantastic achievement!

2015 saw the most successful ever rhizome planting, due to good knowledge sharing, and growers working closely with our farms advisory manager, Andy Lee, to ensure successful establishment.

We're at the forefront of advances in miscanthus planting, and to develop this, we're working with Aberystwyth University in a seed breeding project that will ultimately mean miscanthus can be grown from seed - cutting planting costs, and promoting enhanced genus characteristics 

And while there have been some processing issues in the past year, with collections delayed, the growers were understanding once we explained the intricacies we faced, and the work that we're putting in to ensure that there's not a repeat of this during 2016.

Market development

We know that when a grower looks to planting a new crop, a reliable and sustainable market is one of the most important factors when making a decision.

In growing the market, we've been supplying power stations with whole bales and we're working closely with the new Brigg power station in North Lincolnshire, which is due to open this year.

Currently miscanthus is not eligible for the renewable heat incentive (RHI), but we're working on this with our stakeholders and hope to resolve it during 2016. 

Production overview

For pelleting, the average moisture intake during 2015 was 10.5%, and we've processed 98% of the declared volume.

This is because the bales are better quality than ever this year - and this is down to best practice during harvest, good storage, and good communication from growers about the quality of bales, so we can plan accordingly.

To give you an idea of how much we have progressed in this respect - the average moisture content during 2014 was 12% and we processed 81% of the declared volume.

Haulage

Contrary to the perception that haulage prices should be low, because of the low oil price, there's actually been an increase in haulage pricing caps.

This is down to the changes in the straw market. Straw prices are low, and there've been less movements from the west and south west, impeding our ability to backload lorries. This means caps have increased by £1.50/tonne.

Contracts and pricing

The RPI X-linked price has increased by 1.05%.

This has meant that the grower base price has increased from £73.80/tonne to £74.57/tonne. And, while this is a modest increase, it's still an increase, when we're seeing the whole agricultural industry facing challenging market conditions, and cereals prices at a record low.

We discussed how a long term fixed price crop, with fairly predictable yields, can deliver a net average return of £570/hectare, when the average arable return in today's market conditions is £32/hectare.

And, while our growers know we're not advising that you plant miscanthus instead of cereal crops, we're making the case that growing a proportion of miscanthus on marginal land offers a sustainable income, as a buffer in an unstable market.

We've also reduced the cost of miscanthus planting to £1050/hectare, and this includes the supply of rhizome, the loan of the planter and free agronomic support to ensure a successful establishment.

Big operational changes

Harvest declarations this year are going to be web-based, so rather than filling out a piece of paper and posting it to us, we're streamlining the process. This will improve the logistics platform our end, and make it easier for growers to send us their harvest information.

For more information on this contact the office: 01522 731 873

Thank you to our growers

Finally, I'd like to say a big thank you to all our growers for coming to the forums, and airing your views. 

A number of you reported that you've been let down this year on collections due to processing issues, and I'm pleased to say that after the forums there's a great deal of understanding from you on this issue, and support in ensuring we don't see a repeat this year.

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Calling all growers

Miscanthus has a great future in the UK as an energy crop. There is one company which understands and can work with growers, can process the crop to produce sustainable. high quality fuel and energy and can sell those products to end users. Terravesta is that company.

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