15 March 2002

NFU pushes for zero quota

By Andrew Blake

SUGAR beet growers are calling for the recently completed campaign to be ignored when calculating contract tonnages under the Inter-Professional Agreement, which came into force at the start of the 2001 season.

BS acknowledges that about a quarter of growers have failed to achieve contract tonnage. The NFU wants the latest campaign to be effectively ruled a non-contract year.

A British Sugar reminder letter to beet producers last week is causing some confusion, with growers thinking it signals the quota-free result they had hoped for. "British Sugar has agreed that the year will not count, but doesnt want growers to confirm that until after drilling, to avoid a big dip in plantings," said one producer.

But closer reading of the text does not confirm that position. It states: "There will be no cuts in Contracted Tonnages for under performance following this campaign (2001/02). However, beet delivered during this campaign will form the basis for the first year of the calculation under the new rules."

"We are discussing the under performance situation this year with British Sugar," an NFU spokesman told farmers weekly on Tuesday. "And we are pressing for it not to be taken into account."

&#8226 Matt Twidale has stepped down as NFU sugar beet committee chairman after 14 years, mainly for personal reasons. Vice-chairman and Yorks grower Mike Blacker replaces him, with Lincs grower Nick Wells as vice-chairman. &#42