By Robert Harris
SUGAR beet quota trading has been extended until the end of this month, allowing growers with crops hit by recent rhizomania outbreaks to transfer next seasons contract tonnage.
A total of 52 rhizomania outbreaks have been recorded this sea-son, 33 of them on farms previously free of the disease. This marks a big jump; until this season just 97 farms were affected.
“We believe that the option for rhizomania growers to temporarily relocate their contracts offers the most effective means of limiting the spread of the disease in the short term,” says Chris Carter, British Sugars agricultural director.
So far, 130,000t, about a third of all contracted tonnage on affected farms, has been assigned through the Rhizomania Stewardship Scheme by BS and brokers.
Broker Ian Potter Associates also reports good interest, having assigned 30,000t for about 60 farmers. “There has been a substantial number of inquiries from potential assignees and assignors,” says the companys Mike Weston.
Currrent price is £12/t, he says, just 9p short of the average he has achieved for the season so far.
There has also been significant interest from farmers wishing to enter into an agreement for more than one year, adds Mr Weston, though whether the stewardship scheme continues has yet to be confirmed by British Sugar.
But with the European Commission recently extending the UKs rhizomania-free status for a further two years, it seems more likely.
The extension allows the UK to continue to operate its containment policy, of which the stewardship scheme is a part. “We will push for it to be retained, says Matt Twidale, chairman of NFU sugar beet committee.
The NFU also reminds growers whose farms have been affected by the disease that they must grow a rhizomania-tolerant variety to qualify for compensation in the event of further outbreaks.