No profit, no beet

Our straw poll posing key questions on likely production changes in the UK beet sector demonstrates one thing is patently clear: Growers in this country are not prepared to lose money.

As one puts it: “All other factors are immaterial if the price is wrong.”

“I will grow those crops that give me the best chance of a return and will restructure the business if needed,” adds Norfolk grower Tony Bambridge.

“What is definite is that I will not grow beet at a loss.”

Another Norfolk grower, who wants to remain anonymous having only 25% of his medium-to-heavy land suitable for beet, does not consider himself a long-term producer.

“It may be opportune to sell the quota while it probably still has some value.”

Mark Ireland from Lincolnshire believes he has reducing scope to boost returns.

“I’m struggling to find improved margins because I think we have done so much in the past 10 years.”

Targeting a reduced area of crop to his better soils will help, but it is doubtful whether it would offset much lower prices, he believes.

Cambridgeshire grower John Young is in a similar position.

“We are basically technically as efficient as we can be.”

For Shropshire’s former Farmers Weekly Barometer farmer Alastair Home-Roberts, the crop was fast losing its attraction.

So the recently announced closure of the Allscott factory comes as no great blow.

“Even though the crop would still have made money for us at the reduced price, once you have weighed up the economies of scale on the combinables side, the beet crop becomes marginal.”

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