Sugar beet futures at £36/t with EU crop area set to increase

Global sugar markets have fallen from the highs of 2023, but small price gains so far in April will come as welcome news to beet growers on futures-linked contracts.

The 2024 futures-linked beet price has risen by about £3/t to £36/t in early April, according to industry traders.

Growers supplying British Sugar for the 2024-25 sugar beet contract were able to select to receive a futures-linked option for up to 35% of production, as part of the different contract offerings.

See also: Why early foliar nutrition is key to sugar beet establishment

Sugar trader and NFU sugar board appointee Paul Harper suggested in the NFU’s beet review that world markets remain reliant on supplies from Brazil, while China had increased import volumes so far in 2024, and crop conditions in India had been improving.

Mr Harper said: “There has been discussions that suggest the bull market that sugar has experienced over the past four years may be coming to an end as production catches up and maybe exceeds demand as we move into 2025.

“Time will tell if this is the case. The market is currently more than US$100/t (£79/t) below the highs seen in 2023, so it is likely we will see more volatility over the coming months.”

European outlook

The total European beet area is forecast to increase by roughly 5% in 2024, with overall sugar production expected to be higher for the 2024-25 crop year.

However, it is too early to determine production volumes for the coming year, with drilling still taking place and potential yields unknown.

NFU Sugar commercial and market insight manager Arthur Marshall said: “Feedback from growers suggests that as of the first week in April, about 10% of the UK crop had been drilled, with three-quarters of growers telling us they had not yet planted anything.

“This reflects a similar – possibly even more delayed – situation across much of the European beet belt, with grower associations in many countries recording planting progress well below 10% as of the start of April.”