British Sugar in crisis talks on beet

British Sugar says it is exploring options to help growers mitigate losses after struggling to process this year’s beet crop.

Growers are facing losses totalling £15m and rising after Britain’s freeze-thaw winter left beet rotting in fields and deteriorating in clamps.

The situation has been exacerbated by British Sugar’s late start to processing in a bid to maximise sugar yields. Contractors and hauliers are also staring into the abyss.

Company bosses will hold an emergency meeting with growers at the Lincolnshire showground on Thursday (27 January).

But the frustration felt by many farmers over the crisis is likely to last for months.

British Sugar was forced to admit defeat after blending low-quality beet within areas supplying its Newark factory.

Estimates obtained by Farmers Weekly suggest up to 40% of the Newark crop now faces being written off.

Nobody at British Sugar was willing to comment.

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But in a statement, the company said: “We are exploring a number of alternative options, in conjunction with the NFU, to help growers mitigate the associated cost.”

Rather than processing local beet, the Newark factory will be used to process beet from East Anglia, where losses are also rapidly mounting.

British Sugar said it hoped to maximise the amount of beet processed in the shortest possible time and minimise further degradation.

The NFU has slammed British Sugar for its lack of communication about the situation.

Sugar board chairman William Martin said the processor failed to inform growers after opening factories later than usual to allow crops to grow on.

“British Sugar focused on their own operational issues while failing to give growers clear information whether factories were open in the cold weather,” he said.

“This led to rumour and uncertainty.”

Mr Martin has also called on the company to review its policy of suspending growers who do not meet their contract commitments.

Mr Martin praised British Sugar’s field managers and factory staff for their attempts to maximise the value of the crop.

But he said the company should be more open when providing growers with information on the suitability of their crops for processing.



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