Growers have voiced frustration and concern after British Sugar took down its online grower portal for an indefinite period in the middle of the sugar beet harvest.
British Sugar describes the portal as an “essential source of information” about all aspects of crop production, campaign and contracting for growers, advisers and industry partners.
But technical difficulties mean the website has been taken down for the foreseeable future.
NFU Sugar chairman Michael Sly said: “I think I speak on behalf of all growers in expressing my disappointment and frustration that this has happened.”
“This portal provides the information growers and hauliers need to get beet into British Sugar factories. It isn’t just a nice to have – it’s business critical.”
Mr Sly said NFU Sugar would closely monitor the effectiveness of interim measures put in place by British Sugar to communicate with growers and hauliers.
“More generally, we are concerned about the continued historic lack of investment by Associated British Foods into British Sugar,” he added.
“Until greater investment is forthcoming, the home-grown sugar industry will struggle to compete effectively in the post-quota world.”
British Sugar agriculture director Colm McKay said the company had been experiencing technical difficulties with its online Beet Account system.
“To investigate the cause of the problem and understand how to fix it, the system will be down for the near future,” said Mr McKay.
“We appreciate this will be frustrating for our growers and hauliers, but our priority is to ensure the system is fully operational.”
Interim measures – including extended helpdesk hours and paper copies of documents – has been put in place to support growers and minimise the disruption, said Mr McKay.
British Sugar had invested £250m over the past five years to make its factories and operations more efficient, he added.
Together with growers, it had also invested £2m a year in research and development through the British Beet Research Organisation.