Interest in miscanthus is growing due to its potential in the bioenergy sector and its carbon sequestration abilities. However, the upfront costs can be a barrier to new growers as it does not reach its first harvest for two years.
To combat this, Oxbury, the specialist agricultural bank, has developed a bespoke finance package, in partnership with Terravesta, said to cover almost all the upfront costs of establishing a miscanthus crop. Growers can then pay it back interest-only for up to two years.
“Agriculture is changing, and it’s important that farmers have access to finance and capital for their low carbon initiatives and sustainable growth plans,” said Nick Evans, managing director of Oxbury Bank.
Miscanthus sequesters a net 2.35 tonnes per hectare each year, and according to the Committee on Climate Change, if cropping of perennial crops like miscanthus increased to at least 30,000 hectares a year by 2035, this could sequester two million tonnes of CO2e by 2035 and six million tonnes by 2050.
“By launching this new package we are helping farmers to decarbonise the UK economy with bio-based solutions, while also benefiting their own businesses,” explained Mr Evans. “One of the main barriers to entry is the upfront cost of planting miscanthus. Our package ensures a quick release of funds on which they pay interest only for up to two years while the crop is establishing. Thereafter they can pay back the capital over an extended period when the crop is producing an economic return.”
Terravesta has also introduced a new direct, long-term offtake agreement with end users, with 10-15 year index-linked annual returns to ensure a secure market for producers. Under the new contract, the firm will supply its high yielding performance hybrids, planting equipment and agronomy throughout the crop’s life. Its new planting promise ensures successful establishment by committing to a minimum number of plants emerging, and it will record data like carbon sequestration statistics, ensuring farmers can be rewarded for the environmental benefits.
Chief operating officer Alex Robinson said: “The beauty of this new package is that growers have a direct contract with renewable energy power plants, which enables us to provide a finance package with Oxbury, and focus on crop establishment in the UK at a much greater scale to support our net-zero targets.”
As the UK’s only 100% dedicated agricultural bank, Oxbury has similar green aspirations. “We only lend to farmers and the rural economy, and we recently launched a savings account which directs the interest earned to plant trees on British farms,” said Mr Evans. “Sustainability is central to everything we do, so we’re delighted to be supporting growers who want to diversify into green crops like miscanthus.”