8 December 1995

BSshould pay for whole beet, say growers

By Robert Harris

SUGAR beet growers should be paid for whole roots and deductions for top tare should be abandoned, says the NFU.

It wants to talk to British Sugar "as a matter of priority" to renegotiate grower contract terms, says Matt Twidale, chairman of the NFU sugar beet committee.

But BS maintains top tare is likely to remain standard procedure. Growers will gain nothing by changing the system, it adds.

Mr Twidales comments come in the wake of rising grower disquiet at the level of top tare BS is deducting this season.

"We have had numerous complaints from all parts of the country. Although British Sugar says it doesnt want green material because of the impurities, it is processing the resulting crown beet and making sugar out of it."

Estimated figures

How much is difficult to calculate, he admits. One industry source estimates BS is processing 72,000t of sugar from crowns, equivalent to 10,000ha (25,000 acres) of beet, worth £37m a year. "I wouldnt argue with those figures," says Mr Twidale. "Thats the sort of game thats going on."

He hopes the NFU and BS can come to a new agreement by next season. But he expects strong resistance. "Both sides had agreed to discuss areas in the contract that they felt needed addressing. One of these was top tare. Unfortunately, BS then retracted from the talks. All it was willing to discuss was the outgoers scheme."

Chris Carter, BS agricultural director, refutes that suggestion. "Crown tare is one of a host of things relating to the contract that can be discussed at any time."

Mr Carter admits there is sugar in the crown which is "effectively not paid for".

But there is less of it, it is not all extractable, and the portion that is contains more impurities, making it difficult and costly to remove, he explains.

More green material is being delivered this year, he adds. "Some loads would normally be rejected, but we are trying to be as accommodating as possible."

BS does nothing different to the rest of the EU, he maintains. "The topping clause is a contractual requirement of the EU sugar regime. As far as I am aware, the same top tare agreements exist across the EU." Changing the contract would mean a pan-European agreement, he adds.

Growers have little to gain from that since price is likely to decline for whole beet, he says. "Doubtless when the agreement was originally made, if there had been no top tare, the difference would have been incorporated into the basic price."

NFU wants

– whole beet payment.

– priority talks.

BS says

– top tare EU-wide practice.

– whole beet means lower price.