British Sugar will be writing to beet growers affected by the planned closures of the York and Allscott processing factories imminently, updating them on their options.

The NFU was due to meet British Sugar yesterday (Thursday) to press its case for growers to be offered another year’s contract, as provided for in the current Inter-Professional Agreement, with the processor to pay for the additional haulage to the next nearest beet factory at Newark.

It is understood British Sugar’s preference is to offer some kind of outgoers’ scheme to growers.

Speaking to journalists in London last week, NFU sugar board chairman John Hoyles said the announcement that two factories were to go had come as a “severe shock” and had undermined the confidence of all growers about the company’s commitment to processing.

This was exacerbated by the impasse that has been reached on price negotiations and on the issue of payment for crown sugar.

Mr Hoyles estimated that only 25% of growers would continue with beet at the £17.50 on offer from 2009.

He warned that the issues may have to be settled through independent arbitration.

Sugar board vice-chairman William Martin said British Sugar was running the risk of failing to fill the UK’s sugar quota.

“There is not a whole band of growers bursting to take on extra production at such low prices.”

Irish sugar beet growers and contractors are to get 32% of the money available for restructuring, following the Greencore decision to close its one remaining factory.

This means the country’s 3700 growers will share some €40m (£27m) out of the €145m (£99m) available under the EU’s restructuring scheme, with another €7m (£5m) going to contractors.

philip.clarke@rbi.co.uk