Sugar beet loading© Guter/Sipa/Rex Shutterstock

Beet processor British Sugar is expecting a “substantial improvement” in annual operating profits due to higher sugar prices, lower beet costs and a weak pound against the euro.

The processor is part of Associated British Foods, which does not split out profit from its individual sugar units, but its worldwide sugar operations which includes the UK, Spain, southern Africa and China made £34m of operation profits in the year to mid-September 2016.

The UK beet crop from harvest 2016 is projected to be “just under” 900,000t, down from the “just short of” 1.0m tonnes in the previous year.

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The UK sugar beet harvesting campaign was delayed in order to maximise the growth of the crop with production at British Sugar’s Newark factory running into late February.

With the EU sugar beet quota system being abolished in October, British Sugar expects this year’s crop area to be up 30% to well over 100,000ha with beet prices rising 8.4% before possible bonuses.

The update came in a trading statement from Associated British Foods, which was issued ahead of its half year results due to be published on 19 April.

It said that its worldwide sugar operations would also see a “substantial” increase in profits.