Farmer Focus: Robert Law asks: Risk-free sugar beet production?

How the sugar beet scene has changed over the years. I first applied for a contract in 1985 and, after waiting 17 years, was able to sign up for the 2002 season. This makes the seven-year wait to join the Marylebone Cricket Club pale into insignificance.

Not only did I have to wait, but I had to part with £60,000 to invest in quota so I could join the exclusive band of farmers.

By 2006, further restructuring was taking place and quota prices soon fell to almost zero.

For the 2009 season, despite falling commodity prices for other arable crops, British Sugar staff have had to take to the roads extolling the benefits of its 2009 contract its fixed-price option offering quota for nothing to existing and potential growers.

Its target audience has extended beyond beet-growing areas and stretches back into the West Midlands, which was abandoned just two seasons ago.

If you consider beet growing a bit risky because you are a long way from a factory or on low yielding land, don’t feel left out. You’ll be able to rent your land to BS to grow its own crop and act as contractor for it. In this way you can almost remove all the risks of beet growing, receive a fixed income and not have to worry about spiralling haulage charges.

With the rents I’ve heard BS is willing to pay, growers with land that barely averages 50t/ha could find this a more attractive and less risky proposition than growing their own quota.

Certainly a former beet grower near Shrewsbury who received a phone call from a BS rep asking him to let his land and grow the crop for the company, replied: “How much would you like to grow?”


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