26 October 2001

Hard slog ahead for EUbeet

BEET growers need to lift yield 20% and cut costs 20% to combat the anticipated slump in crop values once a new EU sugar regime is agreed in 2006.

Pressure from an extra 2mt of sugar expected to arrive in the EU from under-developed countries as part of the Everything But Arms agreement from 2007/8 adds to the pressure, says British Sugar operations director Karl Carter.

"In the past five years weve only achieved half that progress, so we have got to double the effort and double the result. If we dont were going to have real profitability issues in 2006."

Expanding on the companys "20:20 vision" he says new varieties will help lift yield, particularly if taken up faster. Earlier drilling, leaving turning headlands undrilled and better harvesting and clamping will also help.

The BS Crop Profitability Initiative already shows the potential for lower costs, with some of the 300 growers involved spending significantly less than £800/ha on beet production compared with an industry average of over £1000/ha. Harvesting costs offer particular scope for savings.

Although the industry is now saddled with the Everything But Arms agreement, concessions secured earlier this year must be guarded, says NFU sugar beet committee chairman Matt Twidale.

"We will need to reinitiate the EBA campaign to mitigate the package nearer the time of its introduction to avert a disaster for growers," he says.

An eye also needs keeping on the £1.30/t regional premium, now it has moved to annual renewal. "On top of the k/£ difference any change could have a significant effect on prices," says Mr Twidale. &#42