The plant, which is located in Montoir, 5km from Cargill’s sunflower plant in Saint Nazaire, will process up to 600,000 metric tones of rapeseed a year – most of which will be sourced locally.
Following the official opening yesterday, Francis De Rpsa, spokesperson for the agri-foods giant, told FoodNavigator.com that this is “good news for regional agriculture – it will give local farmers a new outlook”.
For Cargill, it represents an almost 50 per cent increase in its French oilseed capacity which previously stood at 1250,000 tonnes (rapeseed, soya and sunflower combined). The output of Montoir will be 250,000 metric tones of rapeseed oil per year and 350,000 metric tonnes of protein-rich animal feed.
Twenty-five per cent of the oil is be destined for food use, and the vast majority of this will be used for French food production.
Food versus fuel
Cargill’s partner in the enterprise is Sofiprotéol, described as a “financial holding company that exists to boost oilseed production in France”.
Cargill owns a 75 per cent of the new plant and Sofiprotéol 25 per cent, but as the major shareholder in the Montoir facility Cargill will take on managerial and operational responsibilities.
The non-food 75 per cent of the rapeseed oil produced will be channeled directly to the Diester Atlantique esther plant next door, which is a subsidiary of Sofiprotéol and in which Cargill also has a minority share.
De Rosa admitted that this 75:25 biofuels:food ration is “slightly unusual” for Cargill.
Indeed, biofuels have been implicated as one of the reasons behind the tremendous price increases for grains recently, as available stocks have been diverted from food to fuel uses.
But at present there is an abundance of rapeseed available in France, so the biofuels use is not expected to take away from food supply.
The intention is to strike a balance between food, feed and biofuels uses.
“As a food company we are very hopeful that government policy for biofuels does take into account the need for balance.”
The biodiesel produced by Diester will help France meet renewable fuel targets set out by the government.
As to whether Cargill could divert some of the rapeseed oil from ether to food should a shortage occur, De Rosa said “in theory yes – but we don’t foresee that happening in France at the moment”.
Cargill’s new plant, which was under construction for 15 months, is its third significant grain and oilseed location in France. Its facility in Brest works largely with soy, and that in Saint Nazaire, mainly with sunflower (it is said to crush about half of all the sunflowers crushed in France).
The new plant swung into operation two weeks ago, and is currently operating at 85 per cent capacity as any glitches in the operations – which are quite usual for a new plant of this size – are ironed out.
It is expected that full capacity will be realized within the next week or two.