7 June 1996

Union queries criteria used for judging growers

NFU beet committee chairman Matt Twidale, who farms in Nottinghamshire, has a hard task.

On the one hand he represents established growers who guard quota allocations jealously. But he must also look to the interests of those outside who hope to obtain beet contracts. At present there is little chance of them doing so.

Mr Twidale objects to BSs likely requirement for greater power to remove contracts from growers who in its eyes fail to produce beet in an acceptable way. They should be allowed to grow the crop as they wish, with economics forcing them to improve efficiency, he says.

If a lower input system suits a particular farm then, if growers fill their contracts, they should be left to get on with it, says Mr Twidale. But BS is increasingly interested in husbandry, in particular cutting use of farmyard manure and poultry muck.

Mr Twidale questions BSs criteria for judging growers on a league table basis using dirt, tare, purity, C beet and yield as the measures of efficiency. He fears the firm will become much keener on these issues, using them as a way to remove tonnage from those it sees as inefficient. "It is a one-way system – you can have quota removed but you can never regain it.

"There is a nucleus of good growers who have invested a lot of money and expertise in the crop," he says. "They have stuck with it, and the choice of how to grow the crop should be left to growers."

The issue of quality payments for beet delivered over the contract standard is also likely to come up. While penalties apply for beet of poorer than standard quality, no premium is currently paid for better quality roots. &#42