beet-harvester© Adam Clarke

Farmers have welcomed plans to build a state-of-the art sugar beet factory in Yorkshire – the first new processing facility to be built in the UK for 90 years.

Al Khaleej International is seeking to submit a full planning application to construct and operate a processing facility east of Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.

The factory would be built on the site of the former Allerton Park Quarry, adjacent to the A1.

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The company has submitted a scoping report to Harrogate Borough Council and intends to file a full planning application this July.

Round-the-clock warehouse operations

The plant would process 24,000-36,000t of sugar beet a day from September to March annually, with 24-hour warehouse and packaging operations.

It would produce 5,000-6,000t of refined sugar a day.

Construction of the proposed development would be undertaken over a period of about two years, and would be commissioned in 2020.

The 65ha site would include ancillary buildings and four 80m-tall storage silos on land adjacent to Thornbar Farm, Marton Cum Grafton.

Increased demand

Increased demand for sugar beet could help push up prices to farmers – and create new opportunities to grow the crop.

The new factory would be about 80 miles from the nearest British Sugar plant at Newark.

Some 3,500 farmers would be needed to supply the plant.

As well as attracting new sugar beet growers, it could see some existing growers switch from supplying the Newark facility with beet.

It could also see local growers who used to supply British Sugar’s York factory start growing the crop once again. The York factory closed 10 years ago.

‘Welcome news’

NFU Sugar board chairman Michael Sly said: “Proposals for a new sugar beet processing facility in North Yorkshire are welcome news for the industry.”

“Farmers in the region were disappointed when the British Sugar factory closed in 2007 and it is encouraging that investors are considering a new, larger plant in the area.

“It would be the first sugar beet factory built in the UK for 90 years and represents a considerable vote of confidence for the sector.

“The sugar beet industry makes an important contribution to the rural economy, supporting nearly 10,000 jobs across the country, and is a valuable rotation crop for arable farmers.”

Al Khaleej Sugar already supplies produces 1.5m tonnes of fine and coarse sugar outside the UK.