Beet rots as British Sugar admits defeat

An emergency meeting will be held with growers after British Sugar said it was unable to process thousands of tonnes of beet.

Britain’s freeze-thaw winter has left much of the sugar beet due to be processed at the company’s Newark factory rotting in the fields.

Farmers, hauliers and harvest contractors all face big losses after British Sugar effectively closed the factory to local growers. The processor has been beset by processing problems after wet and mild weather followed Britain’s big freeze in the run-up to Christmas.

Last week, British Sugar’s parent company, ABF, warned that its annual profits would be down by £20m due to the situation. Some 75% of the crop had been harvested, but the effect on the remainder was still to be determined, the company warned.

British Sugar said the problem had been especially pronounced in the areas that supplied its Newark factory. In an email to farmers, it warned that the Newark factory would now be effectively closed to local growers.

“The quality of much of the beet is deteriorating to the point where, despite British Sugar’s best efforts, processing this beet is impossible. We now believe that the majority of the beet in the Newark area will not be processable,” according to the email.

Instead, the Newark factory will be used to process beet from East Anglia, which is also struggling to save the remaining crop. British Sugar said the strategy would maximise the amount of beet processed in the shortest possible time and minimise further degradation.

Newark growers who believe their crop could be processed are advised to contact their British Sugar area manager.

An emergency meeting between the processor and growers is expected to be held later this week. A date has yet to be set but the likely venue is the Lincolnshire showground.

Click here to find out what your options are for disposing of your beet, as well as advice on how to manage your fields prior to drilling the following crop.



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