Cereals 2013: Growers to meet over beet deal

Farm leaders have rejected a proposed sugar beet price increase pending a meeting with growers to discuss the offer.


British Sugar has proposed a price of £30.67/t for the 2014 crop.


The offer is a supplementary £3/t over and above the agreed mechanism price for 2014 which would be £27.67/t, says the processing giant.


It says the offer is also at least £4.16/t higher than the price announced last June for Contract Tonnage Entitlement (CTE) for the current crop.
 
British Sugar agriculture director Colm McKay said: ‘We recognise that the last few growing seasons have been particularly challenging for our sugar beet growers and we have listened to concerns regarding campaign length, factory reliability and price.


The price offer was announced at the first day of the Cereals event in Lincolnshire on Wednesday (12 June).


The offer of £30.67/t is the proposed base price for contracted beet, before late delivery bonuses/payments have been applied.
 
British Sugar has also offered an industrial (ICE) price at £30.67/t.
 
Furthermore, it said it would pay a guaranteed minimum surplus beet price for 2014/15 of at least £25/t.


Mr McKay said: “This, combined with significant planned investment to increase the reliability of our sites and the recent agreements for frost insurance and enhanced late delivery payments, will we trust give growers confidence in sugar beet as an important crop within their arable rotation.”


But the NFU said it was unable to accept the offer before a growers’ meeting at the East of England showground on Tuesday (18 June).


NFU sugar board chairman William Martin said: “Growers have reassessed what premium sugar beet needs to earn relative to other crops to continue to make it attractive in the rotation.”


Following their experience of the past few seasons, growers felt there needed to be more of a safety margin than British Sugar was offering.


“There are more risks associated with growing sugar beet – late campaigns, soil damage, following crops and so on,” said Mr Martin.


The NFU would be taking soundings from growers at the meeting, he added.


If growers felt the British Sugar price offer was acceptable, then the NFU would not “agitate” against that view, said Mr Martin.


But if farmers collectively felt the risk of growing beet had been insufficiently valued, then the NFU would take that message back to British Sugar.


“We have not currently accepted the offer,” said Mr Martin.


Mr KcKay said: “Clearly we are disappointed that we haven’t reached an agreement around the proposal, but appreciate that the NFU are in a unique negotiating position, representing a wide range of views from 3,500 growers.”


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