More beet land needed by British Sugar

British Sugar is looking to rent extra land to grow beet for its 2009 campaign, Farmers Weekly has learned.

Rents reported to be about £200/acre have been offered to farmers. It is believed that contracting costs would be paid to growers on top.

But some farmers British Sugar had approached in the West Midlands told FW they weren’t interested, after BS’s closure of its factory at Alscott last year. “It suited them to drop us, and on principle I don’t believe they deserve the support,” said Shropshire farmer Richard Solari.

Another West Midlands farmer, who asked not to be named, also turned British Sugar down. He was offered a choice of either growing the crop for £26/t plus a £7.50/t haulage allowance, or a rent of £180/acre for the land. A lack of the right infrastructure to grow the crop was one reason for turning the offer down, he said.

“I’ve also become painfully aware that sugar beet was costing us a 1t/acre of wheat on our land. At today’s prices that’s £90/acre, so they were really offering us £100/acre, and obviously would harvest when it suited them, not the conditions,” he added.

British Sugar said it regularly grew extra beet on rented land. A spokesman said: “We have increased it for next year, partly to fulfil our plans to increase ethanol production at Wissington. But it is still only a very small area – less than 2% of our 115,000ha.”

Little would be in the West Midlands, he said, and BS was still contracting area for three of its four factories – only Newark had reached capacity. “The other three will soon be finishing, too.”