9 November 2001

Beet delays frustrating

SUGAR BEET lifted at Easton Lodge in mid-October and programmed to be cleaned and loaded within 10 days is still on the farm 21 days later due to major problems of throughput at British Sugars Wissington factory.

Our haulier is not so quietly tearing his hair out as more and more permits are cancelled each day causing us all within A1 Farmers to become further and further behind.

I have heard that the reduction in throughput at Wissington is equivalent to the entire output achieved by the now closed Bardney factory, could it be that it was premature to place all ones beet in so few baskets?

I see from a letter sent out to growers last week that the cause of the problem is thought to be a reduction in juice particle size causing a filtration hiccup prior to evaporation. I am reminded of British Rails comment when asked about the chaos in the autumn train timetable some years ago when blame was laid squarely at the door of "the wrong sort of snow".

The letter from British Sugar attempts to identify the cause of the problem, one of which could be the presence of deteriorated beet. We seem to be in danger of falling into a Catch 22 situation since one of the reasons for beet deterioration is the length of time it is stored on farm between lifting and loading especially in mild weather.

I would suggest that the proposal in the letters that growers maintain "a close liaison between harvesting and delivery operations to minimise stocks on farm" has come too late.

Have we not all been growing sugar beet for long enough to know that the last thing any grower wants in Sept and Oct is a clamp full of warm beet losing weight and sugar and with a high risk of rotting.

Lifting and loading

We lift about a week ahead of loading as a group subject to the availability of our harvesting contractors but the haulier can no longer get the permits to move the beet into the factory so the beet is deteriorating in the clamp and so on ad infinitum.

May I suggest to British Sugars agriculture and operations director, Karl Carter, that since this is not a situation of our making, British Sugar either takes the beet we have contracted to grow or pays compensation to growers, contractors and hauliers for loss of profit and earnings.

We are told that a rigorous inspection to identify significant levels of damaged beet will be carried out and no doubt if found loads will be rejected and sent back to farm for resorting.

We want more than your apologies and the extension by one week of the payment cut off, Mr Carter. Please re-open a factory and lets get on with the job. A campaign that drags on into March might be OK for you but to the growers it represents storage losses when the crop is lifted early, or loss in yield of subsequent crops if beet are left in the ground .

An interim beet price of £27.65/t is inadequate to pay for either of those which could be why 1300 growers took up the outgoers scheme recently.

Progress on the land in the closing days of Oct has been good. The barley has been sprayed with a tank mix of herbicides and aphicides to control broad-leaved weeds, grasses and BYDV. In addition glyphosate has been used to spray off the stubbles before winter ploughing for peas and sugar beet.

The next job will be to apply a broad spectrum herbicide to the oilseed rape plus a fungicide to control phoma which is coming into the crop at an alarming rate due to mild, moist weather conditions.

Contractors have just arrived to spread the vast mountains of farmyard manure on 19ha (47 acres) of stubble earmarked for sugar beet. This will be ploughed in behind the spreaders as soon as possible and hopefully before the winter sets in, if indeed it ever does. &#42