East Anglia/UK: Offer ‘fair’ says British Sugar as beet price row hots up

Farmers' leaders are battling for better beet prices

Farmers' leaders are battling for better beet prices

British Sugar has insisted it is offering a fair price for next year’s UK beet crop as the row over pricing intensifies.

More than 350 UK sugar beet growers, meeting in Peterborough on Tuesday to discuss next year’s proposed price regime, said they were “sick” of being at the bottom of the European price table for the crop and called on the company to review its offer.

Farmers’ leaders have rejected an offer from British Sugar of £30.67 a tonne.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU), which organised Tuesday’s meeting, said it now had a clear mandate from more than 550 growers to continue negotiating on price with British Sugar for the 2014/15 beet crop, as some of those attending represented multiple growers.

But British Sugar agriculture director Colm McKay said the price on offer was fair, and represented a “significant movement” from last year that would “deliver a positive margin for the vast majority of growers in favour of sugar beet versus alternative crops”.

“This offer, when combined with the recent agreements for frost insurance and enhanced late delivery payments, and coupled with the increased investment plans, represents a substantial investment - which we trust will give growers confidence in sugar beet as an important and profitable crop within their arable rotation,” he said.

“This offer clearly demonstrates our desire to listen and respond positively to growers’ concerns regarding campaign length, factory reliability and price.”

Most Read

The price on offer was at least £4.16/t higher than the price announced last June for Contract Tonnage Entitlement (CTE) for the current crop and would be fixed for the 2014 season even if alternative crop prices fall, he said.

Addressing Tuesday’s meeting, NFU Sugar board chairman William Martin said: “The sheer number of you here shows the strength of feeling in the sector, and how important it is for us to move forward on this.”

Beet farmer Robert Baker, of Drinkstone, near Bury St Edmunds, who sits on the NFU sugar beet board, praised the turnout and said the meeting had gone “exceptionally well”.