Negotiating for a bitter sweet deal

The best deal possible under the circumstances is how the NFU described the new Inter-Professional Agreement and restructuring package reached with British Sugar after several months of negotiation.

“We’ve had to educate British Sugar as to the reality of getting growers to produce sugar beet,” said sugar board vice-chairman William Martin.

“They seemed to think it would be as easy at £17.50/t as at £30/t.

We needed to shift their understanding of grower behaviour.”

The new prices were above the basic EU minimum, though Mr Martin said it was still uncertain how much appetite growers in the eastern counties would have for taking up the extra tonnage available from Allscott and York.

NFU director general Richard Macdonald said growers needed to understand how much the external circumstances had changed as a result of EU sugar reform.

Compared with an EU minimum beet price of £17.50/t, the new prices were a good result, he insisted.

The NFU had also resolved the issue of crown tare once and for all, while the £8/t on offer for surrendering quota was a marked improvement on the £6/t that BS was initially pushing for.

“Overall, this deal is a good one,” he said.

“It gives growers some certainty and confidence that they have got an industry going forward.”