Furious beet farmers have been warned against taking "militant" industrial action amid a bitter contract dispute with British Sugar - but were instead urged to contact their MPs.

British Sugar sparked outrage earlier this month by making a price offer to its 2,300 beet growers - while active negotiations were still under way with industry representatives from the National Farmers' Union's sugar board (NFU Sugar).

Defra has since waded in on the issue, urging both parties to resume talks and find a "mutually acceptable outcome" on a fair price for the 2024-25 season.

But the NFU says this can only happen "if British Sugar retracts its current sugar beet contract offer, as it was made to growers outside of the well-established process".

While talks have remained deadlocked, some disgruntled growers have raised the possibility of boycotting deliveries to factories.

East Anglian Daily Times:  Fenland farmer and NFU Sugar board chairman Michael Sly Fenland farmer and NFU Sugar board chairman Michael Sly (Image: NFU)

But Fenland farmer and NFU Sugar board chairman Michael Sly said: "We cannot possibly condone that kind of activity. We have to bear in mind that there are hauliers and contractors whose businesses also rely on us growing the crop.

"But that mood of anger and militancy is borne out of sheer frustration for the contempt they [farmers] feel as a producer of a fine product here in East Anglia.

"We totally understand and sympathise with that frustration. The company [British Sugar] has managed to unify the growers in collective outrage and utter frustration at the situation we find ourselves in."

East Anglian Daily Times: Sugar beet harvesting in East AngliaSugar beet harvesting in East Anglia (Image: Newsquest)

NFU Sugar has encouraged growers to write to their MPs, asking them to ask Defra to use powers under the 1984 Food Act to set the beet price terms for the 2024/25 season - which the government has already said would be a last resort.

British Sugar has said the "competitive" core price of £38 per tonne was offered because anxious growers had been calling for "the security of a contract" after months of talks had failed to reach an agreement.

A company spokesman added: "We have not withdrawn our offer and continue to remain fully committed to following the dispute and resolution process."