NFU Conference 2014: Sugar beet pricing model up for debate

Sugar beet growers are being asked to join a debate about whether the price of beet should be linked to sugar values once quotas are removed in 2017.

The price for the 2014 crop has already been agreed at £31.67/tonne and prices for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 crop will also be agreed under the current Inter-Professional Agreement (IPA) arrangements.

However, the end of quotas on 31 September 2017 means that a new IPA will need to be agreed for the 2017-18 crop and beyond.

William Martin, NFU sugar board chairman (pictured), said growers would still have the right for collaborative negotiation with British Sugar at that point.

“We have to have a conversation with British Sugar about what kind of producing arrangement do we want,” he said.

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In some other counties, producers were paid a proportion of the end price of sugar which meant that when prices were high they benefited although it did open them up to volatility, said Mr Martin.

“In the UK the beet price has been based on what it costs to produce and what do we need to make it competitive against alternative crops.

“We need a conversation about whether that model is right or whether we want something linked to the value of sugar.”

Speaking during a break-out session at NFU Conference, Mr Martin said beet growers could have a prosperous future after 2017, but only if they innovated.

There were old assumptions that sugar cane was a more efficient way of producing sugar, but beet was just as productive at farm level because so much cane was reliant on irrigation, he said.

“It is by no means the case we are doomed as sugar beet growers because of the onslaught of cane.

“Yields are increasing and on that basis we can and must remain competitive.”