9 November 2001

Factory go slow is cause of beet growers anger

SLOW intake at the UKs largest sugar beet factory, Wissington, is frustrating growers, hauliers, contractors and British Sugar alike.

Some of the 2000 growers supplying the plant at Stoke Ferry, Norfolk, are now calling for compensation for sugar losses as beet is left standing in clamps and movements are delayed.

"We have lost sugar in beet that has been lifted, which would have been putting on sugar if it had been left in the ground," says Edward Whitfield, from Bank House Farm, near Spalding.

He wants delivery bonuses to be increased or brought forward to compensate for the losses.

But apart from the extension in cut-off date for November payments already announced, and possible subsequent extensions to keep grower cashflow as expected, there is no more money in the pot for growers, says BS agriculture and operations director Karl Carter.

Indeed, with the campaign at the stricken factory already 10 days behind schedule the mystery filtration problem is costing BS too, he maintains.

Last weeks slice averaged 13,000t/day, an improvement on the 11,000t/day in previous weeks, but still well short of the target 16,200t/day.

Permits have been adjusted to ensure all beet waiting in clamps is cleared as soon as possible and growers are advised to watch the BS web-site or ring the factory to check on slice progress. Liftings should be scaled back accordingly, says Mr Carter.

That advice is a blow to contractors. "Customers are either saying do not come, it is too mild and we might not be able to get rid of it, or we are only lifting half as much on each visit," says Spalding-based contractor Richard Ivatt.

His own farm has been hit by the stoppages too. "We had 10 acres gone last week, normally we would have 20 acres in by now."

But it is too soon to say the campaign will be extended, stresses Mr Carter. "We have a very small crop, about 1.2m tonnes, so the campaign should not stretch too far into the New Year and there is the opportunity to divert tonnage if necessary." &#42

ters they cut throughput from 670-680t/hour to 200t/hour. But what is causing that and why Wissington is worst hit remains unclear. High dextran content could be to blame, a problem associated with rotting beet. But rejection rates are low and flat pad inspections indicate no problems either.

BEET BACKLOG

&#8226 Mystery filtration problem.

&#8226 Wissington 10-day backlog.

&#8226 Compensation calls.

&#8226 Adjust lifting to slice rate – see www.britishsugar.co.uk or phone factory.

BEET BACKLOG

&#8226 Mystery filtration problem.

&#8226 Wissington 10-day backlog.

&#8226 Compensation calls.

&#8226 Adjust lifting to slice rate – see www.britishsugar.co.uk or phone factory.

Mystery cause

Smaller crystals produced during processing are blamed for the Wissington hold ups. By blocking filters they cut throughput from 670-680t/hour to 200t/hour. But what is causing that and why Wissington is worst hit remains unclear. High dextran content could be to blame, a problem associated with rotting beet. But rejection rates are low and flat pad inspections indicate no problems either.