The NFU’s sugar department is considering legal action against DEFRA after the government department revealed it was planning to reopen negotiations on how much compensation growers should receive as a result of British Sugar’s successful application to renounce 13.5% of the UK sugar quota.

In a letter to growers, NFU sugar board chairman John Hoyles said: “As if the process had not been dragged out for long enough already, the decision to approve the UK application on February 6 has been called into question.

DEFRA has told the NFU that it plans to open negotiations with the contractors over the split of compensation between growers and contractors. This process, which we consider to be unlawful now that the application has been agreed, could have an effect on how much growers receive in compensation.

DEFRA intervention

“Despite the contractors supporting the UK application until now, which incidentally provides for them to receive over £1 million, DEFRA has intervened. Discussions have apparently already been initiated with the NAAC (National Association of Agricultural Contractors) by DEFRA and the RPA, a dialogue that has so far excluded the NFU.

“The NFU is angered by these developments. DEFRA’s latest move only adds delay and uncertainty to the UK’s bid for compensation. It also threatens to derail the whole process and undo the progress that has been made over several months in the interests of the entire industry.

“The NFU is currently considering legal action. We do not accept that there is scope for DEFRA to revisit the application at this stage. Until the matter has been resolved, growers should disregard forecasts made on compensation. These have been based on the distribution of aid presumed to be agreed in the application before the latest bombshell from DEFRA.”