Sugar beet growers look set to be offered contracts based on different pricing options when deciding how they want to be paid for their 2015 crop.
If talks are successful, a new approach to sugar beet pricing means growers will be able to mix and match different pricing formulas, rather than signing up to receive a single, fixed price a tonne of sugar beet before growing the crop the following season.
It raises the prospect of growers being able to lock into different prices for different proportions of their crop – according to how much risk they are willing to accept. Some formulas will leave growers more exposed to price movements, while others will deliver a more stable return.
British Sugar and the NFU are discussing different ways of determining sugar beet prices following the end of a four-year agreement that came under criticism for failing to reflect big movements in the value of other competing crops.
NFU sugar chairman William Martin said most growers remained willing to sign fixed-price contracts for beet. But a small number wanted something more flexible. “What we are discussing is whether we can introduce some flexibility for those who want it,” said Mr Martin.
British Sugar agriculture director Colm McKay said: “Discussions are constructive and we believe together we can find a solution that ensures our growers continue to grow beet, while allowing our industry to remain competitive.”
But a final deal may not be made in time for next month’s Cereals event.
Mr McKay said: “We want to make sure we get this right and therefore are not setting a deadline for an announcement – it’s more important that we take the time to find the right solution for our growers and the industry.”