BUILDING WORK has begun on the UK’s first bioethanol production facility at Wissington, near Downham Market in Norfolk, British Sugar has announced.

Project organisers had been waiting for BS and the National Farmers Union to reach an agreement over supply contracts for the new plant – a situation that was resolved last week (w/e 18 December).

The new plant is expected to begin production in early 2007 and should be able to take beet from the 2006/07 harvest, said BS’s John Smith. It will utilise sugar beet that would previously have been used for non-quota or ‘C’ sugar for export, he explained.

“Under a recent World Trade Organisation ruling, such exports are no longer permitted, giving rise to concerns amongst growers about the viability of continuing to produce this additional sugar beet.”

It is hoped that the new plant will utilise all of the UK’s previously exported beet sugar and produce 70 million litres (55,000 tonnes) of bioethanol each year, equivalent to 650,000 tonnes of sugar beet.

More information about the supply contracts is expected before Christmas. Click here to access British Sugar’s bioethanol website