EUQuote of the Day

Quote of the Day

Jim makes it very difficult not to make his comments into a Quote of the Day…

I was involved (as a farmer) in an EU funded scheme to try and develop a market for flax fibre in the UK, an early renewable resource if you like, this was 20 odd years ago. Some company got an EU grant to buy a decorticating machine (it basically splits the fibre from the hard stem material), and it wanted farmers to grow flax for it to process and then market to end users. So we grew flax. It was a great deal for us, we got a big subsidy to do it, plus we could sell the seed, and we provided the baled flax straw back to the company organising it all. Great, right? A good example of how EU grants can seed new industries.


Wrong. The problem with growing flax for fibre in the UK is that the climate is all wrong. It grows fine, no problem there, however in order for the decorticating machine to be able to split the fibre from the stem, the straw has to do a thing called retting. Which basically means leaving the straw out in the fields to get rained on, so that the stems start to break down naturally, then baling it all up for processing. The trouble is that flax is only ready to harvest in September. So in order for the whole harvesting/retting/baling process to work you need the following weather: a dry period in early to mid Sept to harvest it, followed by some wet weather (but not too wet) to get the stems breaking down a bit, followed by another dry period to get the straw dry enough to bale up without all going mouldy. How likely do you think that is, in the UK? Put it this way in the 3 or 4 years we grew this flax I think we had one crop that was actually suitable to process for fibre. All the others were ruined by the wrong weather in Sept/October.


So eventually the company trying to do all this (on EU money of course) realised it was a daft idea, you could never get a consistent supply of product thanks to the UK’s weather. So the whole scheme died a death. God knows how much EU money went into it, but would have been hundreds of thousands if not millions.


But they’re the clever ones apparently………….

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2 thoughts on “Quote of the Day

  1. Isn’t flax what you make linen out of? How did we do that for thousands of years without the EU and they’re expensive baling machine?

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