Responding to comments made at a meeting of some 300 beet growers, representing nearly 900,000t of quota, NFU senior sugar advisor, Helen Kirkman said that the large turnout at the meeting and strong views expressed had provided plenty of reason to reopen price negotiations.
“For 2009, we may not be able to get any further forward, but British Sugar needs to listen to what’s being said. People want to grow beet, but they can only do so at a fair price.”
Cambridgeshire farmer Oliver Walston organised the meeting at Wype Doles Farm near Whittlesey. He agreed with many fellow growers that sugar beet production at the contract price of £24-25/t that had been offered was uneconomical for all-but the highest yielding areas and a price of nearer £30/t was needed.
“Under the current price British Sugar is imposing, there is no way we can continue to grow beet. It’s fantastic to have got 300 growers together representing 14% of the total tonnage in this country – it feels like we’re actually doing something that could make a difference.
“But, the NFU should have organised this meeting and I hope the message has finally got through to them and British Sugar.”
Mr Walston proposed that beet growers who had not yet returned their contracts to British Sugar, should sign them, but send them to the NFU, who would then hold them until further price negotiations had been completed. “These should only be given to British Sugar when we’re happy with the price.”
Ms Kirkman said the NFU would write to all growers informing them fully of what was going on, but agreed that anyone who wished to send contracts to the NFU could do so. Contracts signed, pending discussions, should be sent to: NFU Sugar, Agriculture House, Stoneleigh Park, Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, CV8 2TZ.