Oilseed growers face threat to payments over fat levels

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Oilseed rape growers who are just coming through one of the most problematic harvests following a difficult growing season are now facing a new and unexpected problem which could hit their pockets hard.

Some samples are showing exceptionally high levels of free fatty acids as a result of the exceptionally poor weather and growers might be facing deductions to their payments as a result.

Free fatty acids (FFA), if present in food-grade oilseed rape oil, can have an impact on quality, turning normally clear oil into a cloudy mix.

The Federation of Oil Seeds and Fats Association, the international body that looks at trading in oilseeds, oil and fats, has a contractual recommendation that the level of FFA is set at 2 per cent but some Scottish samples are well above that level.

NFU Scotland’s combinable crops policy manager, Peter Loggie, said the union was aware of two oilseed merchants who had contacted their growers in the past week advising that a proportion of their payment on oilseed crops would be withheld until testing samples for FFA were completed.

“We have had several discussions with the merchants on the subject and it would appear that huge variances in FFA content have already been found in samples tested,” he said. “While some are well under the recommended two per cent, others have been found with almost 10 per cent FFA.

“Given the high levels that have been found, all loads of oilseed are now likely to be tested at intake for FFAs – a process that is expected to take between ten and 15 days.”

“During that period, it would appear that part of the payment or oil premium will be withheld and returned should the sample pass.

“This news will come as a shock to producers and we would urge merchants to ensure testing is completed quickly. This should allow full payment to be made within the normal contractual window. We also ask that a dialogue be maintained with growers throughout the process of retaining payment and testing the crop. In the meantime, NFUS will keep in touch with the trade to monitor developments.”