British Sugar expects to see a 11% rise in sugar production in 2013 up to 1.28m tonnes as it looks for a stronger UK sugar industry after European Union quotas are abolished in 2017.

The beet processor said the UK harvesting campaign is going to plan and all four of its factories at Bury St Edmunds, Cantley, Wissington and Newark are operating well.

“The mild winter has helped the beet to continue to develop and we are pleased with the crop,” John Bason, finance director of British Sugar’s parent group Associated British Foods tells Farmers Weekly.

The group reported that beet quality and sugar content were encouraging as the crop grew well through the season after poor weather delayed the start of drilling.

Initial projections were for a crop of 1.25m tonnes but this was increased to 1.28m tonnes, which compares with 1.15m tonnes in 2012, a season which was hit by poor growing conditions. Yet it will be just below the 2011 crop of 1.32m tonnes.

Mr Bason said the ending of EU sugar quotas was good news for efficient sugar producers as processers would be able to sell into an open market.

“We are looking for a strong sustainable sugar industry in the UK with a partnership between beet growers and British Sugar,” Mr Bason adds.

Currently, the UK has a EU quota of 1.06m tonnes of sugar, with the equivalent of 100,000 tonnes made into bio-ethanol at its Wissington plant and the remainder is exported.

The crop forecast was made as Associated British Foods reported on its first quarter of trading covering the period for the 16 weeks to 4 January.

The group’s overall sugar operations, which include Britain, Spain, Africa and China, showed revenues down 28% in what it described as a “weaker than expected” performance with lower EU and world sugar prices largely to blame.

The company expects a “substantial reduction” in sugar profits for its financial year to September 2014, but growth in the group’s other operations, such as retailer Primark and grocery brands such as Twinings and Ovaltine, is set to see flat overall group earnings compared with the previous year.

Some 3,600 sugar beet growers in England produce about 7.5m tonnes of sugar beet annually for processing.

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