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Farmers reject report on biofuels

PUBLISHED: 14:39 05 July 2008 | UPDATED: 20:48 05 July 2010

FARMERS in the region have rejected a report claiming biofuels have pushed up food prices by 75pc.

A report by the World Bank says that production of crops like rapeseed and sugar beet for fuel had had a major impact on global food prices.

FARMERS in the region have rejected a report claiming biofuels have pushed up food prices by 75pc.

A report by the World Bank says that production of crops like rapeseed and sugar beet for fuel had had a major impact on global food prices. The unpublished report, written by senior economist Don Mitchell, was leaked to a national newspaper. A similar World Bank report, which was published in April, also blamed biofuels for causing price rises but did not quantify the claim.

The leaked report says “Without the increase in biofuels, global wheat and maize stocks would not have declined appreciably and price increases due to other factors would have been moderate.”

The study blames a tendency to use land to grow crops for biofuel rather than food for a shortage, forcing prices skywards. It looked at a basket of food and said prices rose by 140pc between 2002 and February this year. It estimates that high energy and fertiliser prices only account for 15pc of the increase, while biofuels caused them to jump by 75pc.

This contradicts claims by the US government that plant-derived fuel had only increased prices by 3pc.

Last night farmers rejected the idea that growing crops for fuel could have such an impact. John Collen, chairman of the National Farmers' Union in Suffolk, has a cereal and dairy farm in Gisleham, near Lowestoft. He said the weather and the cost of growing crops were to blame for shortages. “The shortage was created by the bad weather in Europe but there's also been an exodus of people planting crops in Europe because nobody could afford to grow them. My costs for diesel and fertiliser have gone up threefold in a year.”

Mr Collen also said it was too soon to tell what impact biofuel would have. He said: “It was in its first year last year and it is impossible to draw that conclusion from one year's results, given that year had the worst harvest in living memory.”

Alan Fairs grows oilseed rape for extra virgin oil and industry, but not for biodiesel, in Heveningham, near Halesworth. He said he thought the claim was “rubbish”. He said although the biofuels industry may have contributed to food price rises, it was not the main factor and that a bad harvest and production costs were mostly to blame. He said: “It's been one of those years - seven years of plenty, seven years of famine. We had a terrible year.”

But Rupert Read, from the Norwich Green party, said he was not surprised by the report. He added: “We have been saying for years that biofuels are not green and that they are going to have this terrible effect on the poor.”

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