Unease is growing among sugar beet growers about the current pricing system, which may lead to many abandoning the crop for more profitable alternatives.

At the current price of about £26/t, Charles Whitaker, a partner at agricultural consultants Brown & Co, said growers would only be covering costs of production in the current campaign, with average yields widespread.

“Why would you want to continue? It is just not competitive enough and this should be a concern to British Sugar,” he added

“They should look to Europe, where processors have responded much better to rising costs.”

In Norfolk, sugar beet grower Peter Chapman, who has a 7,400t quota over 85ha, told Farmers Weekly that oilseed rape and forage maize or energy beet for anaerobic digestion (AD) were looking like more attractive break crops.

“Speaking to neighbours, they feel the same. If the price announcement in June isn’t more favourable, I believe many will fall out,” said Mr Chapman.

“The NFU has been trying to negotiate a fairer deal for years, but it hasn’t materialised. The extended campaigns also leave the growers exposed to higher risk.

“We need to see British Sugar share some of that risk and reflect it in their pricing structure.”

Duncan West, who produces 4,000t in Norfolk, is also fed up with the current situation, citing a price of about £32/t would be a fairer return for growers which would give him the confidence to invest in machinery, roadways and storage areas.

“They also need to factor in yield losses in the following crops,” he said. “We are considering switching to AD maize or increasing the oilseed rape area next year.

“At present we just have to accept the price that British Sugar sets, because they have the monopoly.”

British Sugar declined to comment at this stage.

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