30 June 2000

Beet outgoers are put on hold till 01

By Robert Harris

THE sugar beet outgoers scheme, expected to begin this year to allow those quitting the crop to sell their quota, has been postponed until 2001.

And brokers warn this could inflate prices for tonnage being leased by growers under the rhizomania stewardship scheme.

"There are more important things which have to be tackled first, such as longer factory opening hours, the cut in the number of tare houses and reduced sampling," says Matt Twidale, chairman of the NFU sugar beet committee.

"We have also really got to look at how the outgoers scheme is going to work. So we have put it off for 12 months."

British Sugar declined to comment, saying the scheme was still under discussion. But brokers were quick to react.

Duncan Clark, of Boston, Lincs-based DCFM, says: "We were expecting an announcement any day. All growers were sent a letter saying there would be permanent transfer this year. Now it seems that the only quota changing hands will be from rhizo-affected farms. Demand will be the same as last year, so we can expect high prices again."

Rhizomania stewardship scheme trading started this week, with agreements being struck at similar prices to last year.

About 138,000t changed hands in 1999. Brokers achieved about £12/t, slightly less than British Sugars transfer scheme.

"We made about the same for some forward deals done this week," says Mr Clark. But, with the difference between A and B contract beet and C beet about £2 greater than last year, the price could edge upwards, he adds.

Ian Potter Associates, based in Ashbourne, Derbys, reports prices at about £11.50/t. "Thats back a bit on last year," says the companys Caroline Carr. "One or two farmers are keen to get moving, and the price reflects that."

British Sugar will be offering a tender system in a few weeks time, says the companys Robin Limb.

Other growers have expressed keen interest in long-term leasing agreements over several years, says Mrs Carr. "But the scheme is only being renewed on an annual basis. We believe it will be open for several years, but British Sugar wont confirm this."

Mr Limb says there are no plans to change the system. "The rhizomania policy is evolving, and we need to see how things develop."