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Renewable farm energy, Bunge expansion, EU cereal yields, Tamworth production, maize cob hope

By Nicola Cottam

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Wheat

Scottish National Farmers Union is promoting renewable energy development
Scottish National Farmers Union is promoting renewable energy development
Scottish farmers embrace renewable energy, Bunge expands its facilities in Australia, EU cereal yields generally above average for 2014, new wheat production plans for Tamworth, Australia, and maize cob flour could save lives in Kenya.

Scotland’s NFU cultivates support for ‘renewables’

The Scottish National Farmers Union (NFU) is staging a one-day event to promote its Renewables Development Initiative (RDI) to encourage cereal farmers to switch from fossil fuel to biomass-driven dryers and demonstrate their energy-saving potential.

Growers are invited to visit one of the projects on-farm events this Saturday, at Robert Ramsay’s West Mains of Kinblethmont farm in Arbroath, to find out about the renewable batch and wood chip boiler system in place at the farm that has reduced drying costs by around 70%.

Speaking prior to the event, Robert Ramsay said: “I am a self-confessed ‘eco-nerd’ and visitors to the open day will see that our involvement in renewables is part of an overall farming policy that keeps an eye on sustainability and lower carbon production.

“For me to heat my dryer with red diesel - at 64.79 p per litre – would cost me 6.3p per kilowatt hour (kWh). Using straw, at a cost of £65 per tonne, the cost of drying falls to 2p per kWh.”

The RDI has already showcased hundreds of Scottish farmers’ energy projects and in the last six months on-farm open days have looked at wind, solar, biomass, hydro and anaerobic digestion.

Major expansion for Bunge in Australia

Global grain trading major Bunge is expanding its Australian operations with a new bulk-grain export terminal in Geelong, Victoria, to complement three existing facilities in the region.

The proposed terminal would export about 450,000 tonnes of grain each year as part of the company’s strategy to develop a modern export facility that would offer a competitive export ‘pathway’​ for grains, said Bunge Australia general manager, Chris Aucote.

“The new terminal is intended to assist Bunge to offer better prices to grain growers and better service to customers. A competitive export supply chain is widely acknowledged as vital for Australia’s grain industry, as is additional capacity to service export markets at key times of the year, so our investment meets both aims.''

Bunge also plans to develop a new AUS$75m grain export facility at Port Kembla, in Wollongong as well as a new grain export terminal in Newcastle and a grain receiving facility with three storage silos – with a capacity of 8,000 tonnes each - in Geelong.

Cereal yields above average across the EU

The European Commission’s (EC) MARS crop monitoring bulletin has forecast better than expected cereal yields for 2014 despite high rainfall slowing harvest activity.

Large parts of Europe, from France to south-western Romania, experienced exceptionally high rainfall during the period of review while Northern and Eastern Europe experienced warmer, drier conditions.

Nevertheless overall yields are estimated to reach a five-year high of 6.1%, with maize above last year’s average at 11%.The only exception is in the Ukraine and Turkey where maize yields suffered as a result of persistent high temperatures of between 2-4 degrees above the norm at the end of the flowering period and start of grain filling stages.

The outlook for summer crops is however excellent, according to predictions, as near average temperatures and humidity boost growth.

Three-way deal to build four wheat production facilities in Australia

Isle of Man-based mining and construction firm, OGL Resources, has signed a strategic agreement with two Chinese companies to build four ​wheat-based food ingredient and ethanol production plants in Australia.

The deal was signed with Chinese food flavouring supplier Henan Lotus Flower Gourmet Power and engineering group Gezhouba Xinjiang Company.

The facilities will tap into the market for wheat-based monosodium glutamate (MSG) ingredients for the food industry, as well as producing ethanol.

Construction of the first AUS$300m plant in Tamworth is expected to begin at the end of the second quarter of 2015 - once final approvals have been agreed -and should take 12-18 months to complete.

OGL executive director, Mathew Kelley was quoted as saying the plant “has the potential to become a key infrastructure asset for the local and global food community.”

Maize cob flour production bid

The Kenyan government has blocked the commercialisation of a new processing technique to produce maize cob flour, which could potentially save lives, according to the developer and biochemist Simon Mwaura.

Mwaura, who is also chief executive officer of Hyaquip (which produces water hyacinth processing equipment), has been ‘evaluating’​ and testing the technique since 1996 but has so far failed to get backing from the National Commission for Science Technology and Innovation in order to carry out further development work.

Kenya’s ministry of public health has also declined a permit for commercialisation, despite growing support from local millers.

The technique involves milling maize together with the cob to produce whole meal maize cob flour through organic synthesis, as an alternative to threshing the maize and discarding the cob, which contains valuable vitamins and minerals.

Mwaura believes adopting the technology could prevent many people from drought-stricken areas dying from starvation.

"Consumers would only need to use a small amount compared to the normal flour because cob flour swells to a larger volume, making you feel fuller for a longer period of time,"​ he said.

Mwaura adds that the flour would be suitable for diabetics as it increases metabolism and could also relieve the symptoms of arthritis, fibromyalgia (a condition that causes pain throughout the body) and irritable bowel disorders, as it reduces inflammation. 

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