The 2013/14 sugar beet campaign is under way, with the first eastern region crops lifted and delivered to British Sugar.

Beet slicing has commenced at three British Sugar factories – Wissington, Bury St Edmunds and Newark – which started receiving beet deliveries earlier this week.

The processing giant’s factory at Cantley, Norfolk, is due to come on stream next Tuesday (24 September).

British Sugar agriculture director Colm McKay said: “Having successfully completed our factory maintenance over the summer period, our sites are ready to begin processing.

“We have started receiving deliveries into Wissington, Bury and Newark this week and beet slicing has now commenced. Our Cantley site is set to come on line next week.”

Growers had experienced good conditions over recent months and crops were making good progress, said Mr McKay.

Yields and sugar contents on some farms are lower than growers would like. A few farmers have already suggested that they might not make quota.

But Mr McKay said: “As is normal, the crop will continue to develop over the remainder of the growing season and it is therefore too early to predict the final outcome for this year.

“Following the rainfall across most of the beet growing area last week, harvesting conditions in the field are looking good.”

Meanwhile, the NFU is continuing to hold talks with British Sugar over the price for next year’s crop – but there is still no sign of any agreement.

In a statement, NFU Sugar vice-chairman Robert Law described the discussions as “frequent” and “constructive”, although progress was “very slow”.

Mr Law added: “While it is not possible to report on the detail, the NFU remains committed to reaching a solution on behalf of growers.”

The NFU has rejected a British Sugar offer of £30.67/t for the 2014 crop, which is £3/t over the agreed formula price of £27.67/t.

Mr Law said the price failed to reflect the risks and realities of growing sugar beet.

“Harvesting sugar beet using heavy equipment, especially in less than perfect conditions, can make a mess of the field. This has a knock-on effect on the yields of crops grown afterwards.

“The risks of growing sugar beet in comparison with other crops and long campaigns have meant we are seeking further rewards.”

British Sugar said talks with the NFU were ongoing and it remained hopeful the two sides would be able to reach a resolution.

The objective remained to pay a fair and competitive beet price to growers without undermining the competitiveness of the sector.

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Sugar beet price talks “constructive”