Teddy Maufe farms 407ha
(1000 acres) at Branthill
Norfolk. Sugar beet lies at
the heart of the rotation,
with other crops including
winter barley, wheat and oats,
spring barley and triticale
FARMING here on the north Norfolk coast, a good proportion of the farm is light and sandy, reminiscent of our famous beaches, so the threat of drought is always on our minds.
During the whole of September we only recorded 9mm (0.4in) of rain, making sugar beet harvesting like drawing reluctant wisdom teeth and winter cereal seed-beds far from ideal.
But by mid-October we had 38mm (1.5in) of rain and, perversely, we were quite glad to see a return to a more settled spell.
The first field of sugar beet lifted in the third week of September yielded a respectable 46t/ha (18.5t/acre) adjusted. But the strength of sterling has cut the price of sugar beet by about £5/t on last years already reduced price.
This will have a big effect on the farm profit. Beet has been the cornerstone of our balance sheet in recent years. For this reason we have directed a lot of care and resources into the sugar beet, employing a specialist agronomist to help keep improving our gross margin on the crop.
Now with a falling sugar beet price we must try to achieve lower growing costs. One area where there has been no tangible decrease at all is the cost of sugar beet seed – soon to be remedied? I hope so.
We completed winter cereal drilling on Oct 24 when we put in the last field of Riband wheat after sugar beet. By far our main cereal crop is malting barley. But after last harvests fiasco, with our barleys discounted on price for a multitude of perceived sins, we have brought triticale back into the rotation on our lightest drought-prone land.
Although in the end all but two lorry loads achieved a malting standard successfully, this was only after a total stand-off with the maltsters. A marketing experience I hope will not be repeated next harvest. *
Beet is the cornerstone of Teddy Maufes farming enterprise on light, sandy land at Wells-next-the-sea, in north Norfolk. So falling prices are a real concern.