Farmer Focus: Jim Alston on British Sugar bosses

When Karl Carter waved his British Sugar accounts in front of the audience of 250 or more farmers at Peterborough in September, he intended, I suppose, to demonstrate how BS is willing to discuss accounts with its growers.

I have looked at the past four years’ figures and I am pleased to see that the directors of British Sugar are not going to be a burden on the state in their old age. Pension and pay for the directors had risen from £1.4m to £2.4m by 2008 – not including £400,000 in share options.

Turnover in sugar has fallen from £673m to £570m, which the chairman’s report blames on the altered sugar regime. Feed products have also fallen, from £97m in 2005 to £64m in 2008. And considering the price of Trident’s pulp nuts in late 2007, this looks odd.

The fact is, because dealings with other ABF companies are not in the accounts it is difficult to fully appreciate their meaning without a better understanding of trade between BS and other ABF affiliates. When the beet price was £30/t, cost of sales was £540m (2006 year end) and when the beet price was £21/ton, cost of sales was £536m (2008 year end). Yields varied over the period, so must that be the answer?

BS paid dividends to its owners (ABF) of £0.25bn over four years, which is probably a good return on investment. Of course, I would rather sell to a sound company than an unsound one, but the EU sugar regime is there for the whole industry and not just one part of it.

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