Organic beet to counter cane imports?

23 March 2001

Organic beet to counter cane imports?

By FWi staff

ORGANIC sugar beet will be grown by 27 UK farmers for processing this autumn to meet growing demand.

Producers hope they will be able to win a slice of the lucrative market currently being met by fast-rising imports of organic cane sugar.

With a 55% price premium, net margin on the 327ha (808 acres) of organic sugar could be almost double that of the conventional crop.

“Demand from industrial customers is growing strongly in the UK,” says British Sugar commercial manager Simon Leeds.

“We currently ship in around 4000t from half-way across the world.”

BS will also pay for transport to its Newark factory, where a campaign within a campaign will process organic beet in November.

BS says the organic crop can give a total output of 2094/ha, compared with 1540 from a conventional crop.

That assumes a yield of 44t/ha for organic and 55t/ha for conventional beet and a 55% premium, lifting the price from 28 to 47.59/adjusted tonne,

Overall this provides a net margin, excluding rent and finance, of 941.45/ha, compared with 516.15 for conventional beet.

Area is expected to double for 2002, then rise 40-50% year-on-year, accounting for several thousand hectares within a decade.

Organic contracts are in addition to existing individual quotas.

Trials funded by British Beet Research Organisation show economic returns can be achieved given good establishment on reasonably fertile sites with few soil pests.

Acceptable weed control is possible, but can be costly.

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