Unapproved beet clause puts Saxon in shade
CONTRACT clauses restricting sugar beet growers to sowing no more than 10% of unapproved varieties are under the spotlight.
NIABs move to drop popular variety Saxon shocked Novartis marketing manager Lewis Dyer, who is now appealing to have the variety re-instated.
Under the BS/NFU inter-professional agreement beet growers may only sow up to a tenth of their crops to varieties not on the approved list. Doing so risks lower profits, claims John Prince for British Sugar – the UKs only beet buyer.
On trials data Saxon loses out, Mr Dyer concedes. "We dont argue that the figures dont look so good. It is only twelfth for growers income."
But consistency, well demonstrated by the variety over eight years, needs more consideration and newcomers must prove themselves in cold wet springs, he argues.
"Saxon has outlived its useful life," says Mr Prince. "If growers wish to buy it we can supply it. But orders have to be placed by us and we reserve the right to discuss with individuals why they want to grow something that is outclassed."
Mr Prince strongly denies BS wants to see the back of Saxon because its high sugar content means more costly extraction. Several newcomers, notably Madrid, have similar sugar contents, he says.
Saxons market share fell from 19% in 1997 to 8% this year, but it remains the sixth most popular variety this spring.
• NFU sugar beet committee chairman Matt Twidale says the 10% variety freedom clause has long been accepted. "British Sugar is buying the product and so is entitled to specify what is required." *