British Sugar seeks to reassure worried beet growers

Sugar beet growers on the industry haulage scheme hit by troubled contractor M&J Haulage will not see any cost increase this harvest, British Sugar has pledged.

Lincolnshire-based M&J Haulage went into administration earlier this month after losing a bid to cart thousands of tonnes of beet from farms to British Sugar’s Newark factory.

British Sugar agriculture director Colm McKay said all growers affected by the situation had now been contacted following a meeting arranged by NFU Sugar.

See also: Emergency meeting called over beet haulage crisis

Alternative haulage arrangements had been made and British Sugar was writing to all impacted growers to confirm the contingency plans and reassure farmers.

Last week, NFU Sugar chairman Michael Sly said M&J’s demise called into question the ability of the industry haulage scheme to deliver a sustainable supply chain from field to factory.

Some growers not on the industry haulage scheme also voiced concern they could face higher transport costs to get beet to the Newark factory.

They have also expressed worries harvested beet could deteriorate as it awaits collection.

Capacity available

But Mr McKay said: “We are supporting all growers – including those who contracted directly with M&J Haulage – and have supplied a list of contractors who have capacity available.”

“Where growers would prefer we are speaking to contractors on their behalf.”

Mr McKay pledged: “Any impacted growers on the industry harvesting and haulage scheme will see no increase in costs for this campaign.”

British Sugar said it will continue the dialogue with growers as harvest continues.

The first few weeks of the harvesting and processing campaign have also seen growers air concerns aired about other supply chain issues at British Sugar factories.

Mr Sly said: “Multiple breakdowns have already meant delays for growers in harvesting and hauling beet and do not instil confidence.”

British Sugar has acknowledged some factories had a difficult start to the campaign.

New equipment

But it said this was partly due to commissioning new equipment as part of a £250m investment over five years to make factories more efficient and robust.

Mr McKay said lifting conditions remained generally good for beet and adequate supplies of the crop were now available at all four factories.

As well as Newark, British Sugar has factories at Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk; and Cantley and Wissington, both in Norfolk.

“Daily throughputs at all our factories have now stabilised at above daily target levels,” said Mr McKay.

The average sugar content across all four British Sugar sites last week was 17.8%.

Any grower who remains concerned about delays can call the British Sugar helpline on 0870 240 2314 or the NFU Sugar helpline on 0370 066 1974.

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