Processing problems at British Sugar factories have caused the firm to switch its delivery strategy and accept the best quality crops first.
Unseasonably warm temperatures last week caused frost-damaged crops to deteriorate and block filters in the processing system, said Paul Bee, agriculture communications manager for British Sugar. “We were taking the frost-damaged crops first, but now we’ve had to change our approach.”
To get factories back to full capacity, undamaged beet would be processed first and deteriorated crops would be blended in later, he said. “We won’t write off crops in the ground that have deteriorated. This approach just allows us to keep going.”
A return to colder temperatures this week should stabilise damaged crops, preventing further deterioration before movement, he said.
British Sugar’s area managers were working directly with growers to decide which loads should be taken first. Fields would be inspected for the level of damage and in some cases crown tares could be significantly reduced. Some growers with badly frost-damaged beet may have to remove the crown completely, said Mr Bee.
All factories have been affected by deteriorated beet, but Bury St Edmunds are still able to accept a blend of damaged and healthy beet.
British Sugar were trying to establish the number of affected crops, but there was significant variation in beet condition. Coastal regions seemed to be less affected, along with crops that had thick foliage before frosts came down. Snow cover also limited frost damage in a number of crops.
The setback could delay the campaign further, but Mr Bee was not able to give an accurate end date. “We will be a bit hand-to-mouth for the next few weeks and will have to re-assess the situation daily. But we are doing our best to get all crops processed.”