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East Anglia’s sugar beet campaign ‘progressing well’ - but growers face price cut next year

PUBLISHED: 08:22 17 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:36 17 January 2019

Sugar beet at the British Sugar factory in Bury St Edmunds  Picture: SU ANDERSON

Sugar beet at the British Sugar factory in Bury St Edmunds Picture: SU ANDERSON

Revenues have slumped by 12% at British Sugar owner AB Sugar after prices plummeted - but its UK campaign is ‘progressing well’ with high sugar content in its beet crop.

Revenues have slumped by 12% at British Sugar owner AB Sugar after prices plummeted - but its UK campaign is ‘progressing well’ with high sugar content in its beet crop.

A trading update for the 16 weeks to January 5, 2019 by ingredients and retail giant Associated British Foods plc (ABF) showed sales at its subsidiary AB Sugar were down 12% on last year at constant currency and 14% behind at actual exchange rates.

AB Sugar operates across 24 plants in 10 countries and employs around 32,000 people at plants including in Spain and China.

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In the UK, it owns British Sugar, which processes sugar beet at its East Anglian factories in Bury St Edmunds, Cantley, Newark and Wissington.

Yields are down on last year for its UK campaign - or harvest - but sugar content is good.

“As expected, the lower revenue in our UK and Spanish businesses in the period was the result of the lower EU sugar prices for contracts negotiated at the end of last financial year. Looking ahead, the development of our sales book for this year has indicated early signs of recovery in EU sugar prices,” it said.

“The UK campaign is progressing well and production will now be 1.15m tonnes as a result of higher sugar content in the beet. Beet yields this year are lower than the record level last year and so production is lower than the 1.37m tonnes achieved last year.”

Its northern Spanish campaign at Azucarera has started, it said.

“Total beet sugar production is expected to be some 300,000 tonnes, and a further 170,000 tonnes will be produced from the refining of cane raws at Guadalete,” the company said.

In December, the company announced a cut in the beet price that will be paid to growers from the next campaign, “bringing this price into better alignment with the market and with prevailing EU sugar prices”, it said.

Sugar production at its Illovo plant for the full financial year is expected to be ahead of last year at 1.75m tonnes, with campaigns extended to counter wet conditions which hit production in the early part of the season.

In China, very low levels of sugar content and purity in beet adversely affected operational performance at our factories at Zhangbei and Qianqi. Combined with lower domestic sugar prices, the business will make a loss this financial year compared to a strong operating result last year, AB Sugar said.


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