24 November 1995

Beet suppliers reckon they are losing out on top tares

UNUSUALLY high top tares this season concern sugar beet growers. They reckon they are supplying British Sugar, which processes crown root but pays nothing for it, with thousands of tonnes of free sugar.

Top tares at farmers weeklys Easton Lodge and Mill Farm are 7% and 9%, respectively, compared with 5.6% and 6.4% last year, says manager John Lambkin.

Over 45t of the 650t of beet delivered so far is top. "I find that difficult to accept. This is the cleanest, easiest beet harvest for years, yet we get these ridiculous tares."

Mr Lambkin believes BS tare house procedure is to blame. "I suspect it is getting more zealous with its knives. We are not doing anything different."

Growers cannot remove more top to save transport costs, he adds. "If we cut tare to 2-3%, the factory comes down like a ton of bricks saying we are overtopping. They cant have it both ways."

Whats the top?

A Yorks grower, who wishes to remain anonymous, says: "British Sugar is not reneging on its contract. They have a right to take tops off at the lowest leaf scar. But on modern varieties that can be 2-3in down."

He is averaging 10% top tare. "Only 1 or 2% is green material. The rest is processed. Farmers are losing out. No wonder BS is the most efficient sugar producer in Europe."

BS is unwilling to discuss payment for top tare, saying only that sugar contents are lower and impurities higher. Some tare has to be delivered if growers are not to sacrifice saleable root yield, it says.

Top tare is calculated as a percentage of dirty weight, so the cleaner the crop the higher it seems. In fact they are little different from average, claims BSs John Prince. But variable beet height is causing problems for some.

"Growers will lose by overtopping. If they try to top small roots any lower, they will cut bigger ones in half. A 0% top tare would reduce yield by 2-4t/ha. Growers need to strike a balance to maximise their tonnage of saleable beet."

BS has not tightened up topping procedure, he adds. "The NFU work closely with us in this, they would be the first to complain if it had changed." &#42