CropEnergies signalled the imminent restart of the UK's Ensus plant, and a potentially significant call on wheat supplies, even as government officials said that domestic stocks of the grain were higher than had been thought.
CropEnergies, the German-based biofuels group which bought Ensus two months ago, said that it was undertaking "final cleaning and optimisation works" at the plant, in the north of England, ahead of commissioning it.
While the group stopped short of naming a date for a restart, it stuck by a forecast, made in July, for 10-20% revenue growth for the financial year to February 2014, growth attributed to the Ensus purchase.
CropEnergies - which bought Ensus from shareholders including Carlyle Group and French banks, which lost heavily on their investments – said in July that the plant "should be put into operation in autumn 2013".
The prospect of an Ensus restart would bring demand of some 100,000 tonnes month back onstream – representing a substantial portion of a UK harvest estimated at about 12m-12.5m tonnes, of which a far lower proportion than last year is of the feed quality used in ethanol manufacture.
The Vivergo site nearby, of similar size, is also being brought onstream, although its move to full capacity is being delayed by teething troubles, sources say.
However, UK farm ministry official data on Monday revealed that the country ended the 2012-13 season, which closes in June, with stocks of 2.186m tonnes, up nearly 700,000 tonnes year on year.
The figure was 250,000 tonnes higher than the previous forecast, and 736,000 tonnes above the level that the ministry considers a pipeline minimum – although less generous than some market estimates made earlier in the summer.
Monday's upgrade reflected stronger-than-expected close to the season for imports, which topped 2.9m tonnes for the first time since the 1970s.
The ministry, Defra, also noted "some under-reporting of stocks held by merchants, ports and co-operatives", a factor which explained a gap in estimates from data reported a month ago.
Indeed, the ministry acknowledged that it had been "particularly challenging" to form its estimates, after "imports were much higher than anticipated and did not correlate well with the Defra usage and stocks survey data".
Indeed, the estimates for oats and corn "are still under investigation due to discrepancies in the data that need to be explored further".
In oats, Defra flagged that oats consumers appeared to have used 38,000 tonnes more of imported oats than had actually been imported.
In corn, imports appeared to have come in at 1.36m tonnes, 330,000 tonnes beneath the figure suggested by customs data.