Rapeseed oil remains primary feedstock for German biodiesel

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The 2020 rapeseed harvest will likely once more be lower than average, but this is not due to shrinking demand, according to Germany’s Union zur Förderung von Oel- und Proteinpflanzen (UFOP), referring to the German biodiesel industry’s feedstock requirements. In 2019, the industry produced 3.4 million tons (1.02 billion gallons) of biodiesel, of which about 1.9 million tons were based on rapeseed oil. UFOP has pointed out that in view of the upcoming sowings, the producer price should pull the area sown to ensure that the feedstock supply chain is as short as possible.

Due to the poor growing conditions, the German rapeseed harvest will presumably

be small again. According to the latest estimate of the German Raiffeisenverband (association of the agricultural cooperatives), this year’s rapeseed harvest will be 14 percent larger year-on-year at 3.2 million tons, but it would still fall approximately 21 percent short of the five-year average. UFOP has explained that one of the reasons is that with approximately 1 million hectares under rapeseed cultivation, the potential of area is far from being fully exploited.

Incentives for expanding the rapeseed area should come from producer prices, along with good sowing conditions from the end of August to the beginning of September. Forward contract prices are presently at approximately 364 euros per ton, approximately 200 euros per ton higher than those for wheat. Prices are supported by the fact that the rapeseed market in the European Union is characterized by a permanent shortage of cover to operate processing plants at full capacity. More specifically, according to statistics provided by the German Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE), approximately 9 million tons of rapeseed were processed in German oil mills in 2019—of which, according to calculations made by Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft (mbH), almost 3.9 million tons were of German origin—yielding about 3.8 million tons of rapeseed oil. UFOP has concluded that, consequently, demand for rapeseed in Germany remains strong.

Underlining the overall importance of rapeseed cultivation, the association has pointed out that, at the same time, flowering rapeseed fields and the integrated value chains associated with rapeseed processing—from GM-free fodder production to certified pharmaceutical glycerin—have a positive impact on the image of biodiesel, both among the public and in politics.

According to the Association of the German Biofuels Industry (Verband der Deutschen Biokraftstoffindustrie), in 2019 about 3.4 million tons of biodiesel were produced in Germany alone. The primary feedstock was rapeseed oil, as it was in previous years, which accounted for 57 percent. The use of used cooking oil and fats declined just less than 2 percentage points to 25 percent year-on-year. The role of soybean oil, accounting for 11 percent, increased somewhat compared to 2018 (8 percent). The percentage of palm oil remained unchanged from the previous year at a relatively low 2 percent. Animal fats, fatty acids and other feedstocks together accounted for no more than 5 percent.

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