The NFU has rejected claims by union leaders representing workers at York’s sugar beet processing plant that the factory could have been kept open if they had all worked together.

The GMB, Transport and General Workers’ Union and Amicus have claimed that a two-pronged approach alongside the NFU could have forced a U-turn by British Sugar.

“The local NFU supported our desire to fight the closure and we had been pressing the national NFU for a joint meeting with the management of British Sugar to keep the factory open,” said GMB Officer, John Kirk, spokesperson for the joint trades unions.

“But instead the NFU negotiated compensation for farmers separately.”

But NFU senior sugar beet adviser Helen Kirkman said that British Sugar had made it very clear that the factory would not stay open.

“As soon as the announcement was made, our first priority was to reverse the decision.

But it was made very clear to us that it was not an option.

From that point, as the body representing growers, our priority was making sure that growers had options available to them.”

The NFU will be writing to sugar growers early next week to give them more detail of the opportunities provided by the new Inter-Professional Agreement, which it points out is much more flexible than it has been in the past.