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British Sugar under fire after beet grower portal is taken down

PUBLISHED: 17:16 02 November 2018

Sugar beet at British Sugar's Bury St Edmunds factory Picture: GREGG BROWN

Sugar beet at British Sugar's Bury St Edmunds factory Picture: GREGG BROWN

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British Sugar has come under fire from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) after technical difficulties led it to take down its online sugar beet grower portal, prompting criticism about its investment in the industry.

Colm McKay, agricultural director at British Sugar Picture: SU ANDERSONColm McKay, agricultural director at British Sugar Picture: SU ANDERSON

NFU Sugar said it was extremely concerned about the impact on growers of British Sugar’s decision to take down its online grower portal for an indefinite period in the middle of the sugar beet campaign.

NFU Sugar board chairman Michael Sly said: “I think I speak on behalf of all growers in expressing my disappointment and frustration that this has happened. This portal provides the information that growers and hauliers need to get beet into British Sugar factories. It isn’t just a nice to have – it’s business critical.

“NFU Sugar will closely monitor the effectiveness of the interim measures British Sugar puts in place to communicate with growers and hauliers.

“More generally, we are concerned about the continued, historic, lack of investment by Associated British Foods into British Sugar. Until greater investment is forthcoming, the home grown sugar industry will struggle to compete effectively in the post-quota world.”

Michael Sly, chairman of the National Farmers Unions (NFU) national sugar board Picture: NFUMichael Sly, chairman of the National Farmers Unions (NFU) national sugar board Picture: NFU

Colm McKay, agriculture director at British Sugar, said: “We have been experiencing technical difficulties with the our online Beet Account system. To investigate the cause of the problem and understand how to fix it the system will be down for the near future.

“We appreciate this will be frustrating for our growers and hauliers but our priority is to ensure the system is fully operational. In the meantime we have put in place a number of plans to provide support and minimise the disruption. These have included extending the hours for our Grower Services helpdesk, providing paper copies of documents and speaking to growers directly to offer support.

“To make our factories and operations more efficient in the past five years alone we’ve invested £250m as well as, together with our growers, investing £2m a year in R&D through the British Beet Research Organisation.”

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