23 October 1998

NFUsugar dispute may be settled by third party

BRITISH Sugar and the NFU edged a step closer to arbitration in their long-running contract dispute this week.

At Beet UK, the industrys first national harvester demonstration for 13 years, both parties agreed arbitration was the next option if next Wednesdays meeting fails to find a basis for agreement.

"It cant go on for ever," admitted BSs deputy managing director Clive Francis. "We would prefer a negotiated settlement – if we have to go to a third party there is a danger neither of us will get what we want."

NFU sugar beet committee chairman Matt Twidale agreed. "Weve been at this stage before," he told a packed meeting of 200 sugar beet growers at Newark Showground. "But unless something gets sorted out soon arbitration may be the only way."

Bonuses for purer beet and payments for all sugar extracted, including tops, are the sticking points. "I cant think of another EU country that doesnt recognise those aspects someway. Unfortunately, the UK is at the bottom of the list in this respect."

But UK growers already get an £11m regional premium over other EU producers, noted Mr Francis. "We can see no commercial reason for making further payments." &#42