The NFU has labelled as “irresponsible” a solicitor urging sugar beet growers to join forces and renegotiate their supply contracts with British Sugar.

Richard Barker of solicitor Barker Gotelee believed that British growers shoulder more of the risks and the costs of production than their European counterparts, and said that now was the time to redress the balance, as EU member states haggled over reform of the sugar regime.

“Farmers need to remember that the Commission’s proposal for a beet price of around 17.35/t is only a minimum price that processors must pay. The actual price is a matter of negotiations between the farmers and the processors,” Mr Barker said.

But beet grower and member of the NFU sugar board, Ross Haddow, called Mr Barker’s advice irresponsible. “Farmers could easily end up disadvantaging themselves if they act too quickly, before compensation [for the price cuts in the reform] has been decided.”

It was laughable, he added, to suggest that individual groups of farmers could negotiate better with British Sugar and the government over group contracts than the NFU.