Whingeing beet growers should grow other crops, says Richard Cobbald

A favourite subject of mine over the years of writing these columns has been sugar beet, and in my last one I tried to put the subject to bed.

The subject is now at the top of my list again because the NFU called a growers’ meeting, which I attended. While driving there I, perhaps naively, thought we were going to discuss this campaign and how to correct things in the future. How wrong I was.

Two years ago, we as growers, agreed through the negotiating team a method of payments for four years. Most growers then wanted more beet as the margins were consistently good, but now commodity prices have risen, they all want to blame the NFU for the poor price of beet for the 2011 crop.

My answer, for those of you who were calling for William Martin’s head and saying the NFU is useless and British Sugar a horrible monopoly, is stop growing the crop and let those of us who want to expand the crop to get on with it without whingeing. There is no pleasing some people. This is business guys, stop moaning and do what’s best for your own farm.

The last bit of frost enabled us to get some early nitrogen on to some very backward-looking second wheats and start ploughing game cover crops. There is no rush yet as the mowed down maize keeps the pigeons off the oilseed rape – a welcome relief from the annual assault against the feathered vermin. Despite their attentions, oilseed rape crops have come through winter pretty well and providing we get the right weather should have potential.

Let’s hope for rain this spring, huge yields and wheat prices to jump to £250/t so we can all make so much money that even those who hate sugar beet will be happy.





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