Multi-annual contracts set to return for sugar beet

Sugar beet growers are expected to be offered multi-annual contracts for the 2020-21 crop – one year after they were withdrawn by British Sugar.

British Sugar managing director Paul Kenward said he hoped the processor would again be in a position to offer growers longer-term contracts following price talks with the NFU.

See also: Sugar beet – how to grow a profitable crop

About 60% of growers are currently on three-year contracts to supply beet to British Sugar, Mr Kenward told this week’s NFU conference on Wednesday (20 February).

Cyclical industry

However, a difficult market saw only a single-year contract offered for the 2019-20 crop, which will be going into the ground during the coming weeks.

British Sugar had made a loss for three of the past five years, said Mr Kenward, but it was a cyclical industry and sugar prices were expected to recover.

At the same time, longer-term contracts had proved extremely popular – and gave both growers and the processor certainty.

“We will offer that again this year, we hope,” said Mr Kenward, who told Farmers Weekly he was considering multi-annual contracts of up to five years.

Further changes

Other changes could be made in the way growers are paid for beet.

British Sugar has been piloting a system that would pay farmers a proportion of their forecast revenue for the crop during the summer after it is planted – rather than having to wait until after it is lifted.

“In the nature of pilots, it hasn’t been perfect and we will pick the bones from it – but we have a real ambition to offer growers money in June and July on the basis that they have planted a crop and we know that we will get that crop.”