East Anglian: Profits for beet growers ‘at forefront of British Sugar strategy’

The British Sugar factory at Bury St Edmunds

The British Sugar factory at Bury St Edmunds - Credit: citizenside.com

A profitable future for beet growers was at the forefront of British Sugar’s strategy, said new managing director Richard Pike.

Speaking to his first growers’ winter conference, he said that beet had to be competitive with other crops. “We’re putting our thoughts financially where that needs to be to give you the confidence that you want to grow the beet crop and you want to invest in the future.”

Mr Pike said that it “was not only about getting the price but also having the confidence in us as a partner that we can process that crop; you can deliver it to us and we will be able to actually process and pay you for what you grow.”

“We have plans that we’re working on at present. There’s more we need to do in terms to improve manufacturing efficiency and processing capability,” he said.

“We’re not quite there yet but later in the current year we’re going to come back to William Martin and the NFU Sugar Board and talk to them about what our plans will look like.”

Recognising poor campaign performance, Mr Pike, who joined three years ago as group finance director of British Sugar’s parent company, AB Sugar, said that harvesting conditions had been “exceptionally difficult which caused further headaches in processing.”

“Each one of our factories has struggled with filtration problems this year which has impacted on our throughput all the way thorough the campaign. I think everybody has showed fantastic resolve and real tenacity in terms of facing up to the challenges which we’ve had this year in processing what has been a very difficult crop.”

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He said that the whole industry, has made tremendous strides over a number of years. “We’re facing a more competitive environment. The reality today is that there are other producers of sugar and some very close to us, including the French, who have the ability to be better than us and be more competitive than us.

“We shouldn’t not lose sight of the fact that there is huge potential for this crop and for this industry. Beet yields have been increasing further over a period of time and faster than any other broad acre crop.

“I’m looking to drive the best things for our business. You’re looking to drive the best for your business but unless we can find that balance that works for all of us it won’t work for any of us.

“I would say that my vision is that we will work closely together to actually drive to a position where we have a globally competitive business. It is built on a position of trust and that generates sustainable competitive returns both for you and for us in the long term.

“If we can do that, I’ve every belief that while we’ve just celebrated a centenary at Cantley we’ve got the ability to be here for another 100 years,” he said.