Rapeseed to decline in EU as biofuel wanes, exports to boost wheat: report

PARIS (Reuters) - Rapeseed will lose ground as a crop in the European Union in the next decade as biofuel demand wanes and other oilseeds capture more growth from edible oil and livestock feed markets, the EU’s executive forecast.

A crow flies towards a tree in a blooming rapeseed field on a spring morning in Vufflens-la-Ville near Lausanne April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Rapeseed is the most produced oilseed in the EU but its prospects have been clouded by a deteriorating market for crop-based biofuel amid declining policy support and growing competition from imports.

A sharp decline in the rapeseed area, to around 6 million hectares by 2030/31 versus an average 6.5 million in the past five years, would outweigh improving yields and push down production, the European Commission said.

“The gradual demand shift from rapeseed toward soya bean is becoming more apparent,” it said in an agriculture outlook report issued on Monday.

“This trend, which is a reversal from the last decade, is expected to continue over the outlook period, as feed use will become the predominant driver of the oilseed complex, given uncertainty regarding first-generation biofuels.”

Rapeseed oil accounts for over 60 percent of vegetable oil use in biodiesel in the EU, leaving it more exposed to an expected decline in biofuel demand, the Commission said, forecasting biofuel demand for vegetable oils would fall to 9.1 million tonnes in 2030/31 from 10.5 million in 2017/18.

Farm-level rapeseed production was projected to decline to 20.7 million tonnes by 2030/31. The Commission cited a 2017/18 forecast of 22.3 million but since the preparation of the report it has cut its estimate to 21.7 million.

EU soybean production was projected to rise to 3 million tonnes by 2030/31 versus 2.7 million this season, while imports of soybeans and soymeal were expected to rise given the attractiveness of soy as a protein feed, it said.

Sunflower seed, meanwhile, was expected to benefit from rising demand for edible oil and see production rise toward the end of the outlook period.

The Commission was more optimistic about prospects for wheat, the EU’s main cereal crop.

EU exports of common wheat, or soft wheat, were projected to rise to a record 36.8 million tonnes in 2030/31 compared with 27 million this season, given strong demand around the Mediterranean, in sub-Saharan Africa and the Gulf.

Rising demand for livestock feed, supported by an expanding dairy sector, would also drive wheat supply, it said.

Common wheat production was forecast to reach a record 160.7 million tonnes. This compares with 142.5 million in the EU’s latest estimate for this season.

The projections were on the basis of a 28-country EU including the UK, since the terms of the planned British exit from the bloc were yet to be decided, the Commission said.

Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Adrian Croft