Plants power up as beet campaign begins

SUGAR makers are expecting to bag an average-sized harvest this year following last year’s bumper beet crop.

East Anglia’s sugar beet campaign - the traditional name for the harvest season - began in earnest this week as the last of British Sugar’s regional factories opened up ready to receive the latest crop.

Farmers are working flat out to harvest the crop during the current dry spell, following a wet start to the autumn.

British Sugar’s plant at Newark, Peterborough, opened on September 16, following by Wissington in Norfolk on September 20, Bury St Edmunds last Thursday and Cantley in Norfolk on Tuesday.

Communications manager Paul Bee said it was a typical start to the season and predicted a more average yield than last year’s.

“We normally start September/October and go through, depending on the volume of the crop, until late February/early March,” he said.

“It’s very early days. This season was known for its very dry summer and, it sounds strange, but we did have a dry August. Then we had quite a wet start to the campaign.

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“So the crop is looking probably not as good as last year. Last year we had a record crop - the best ever year.”

He added: “Conditions were looking wet to start with, but in the last week or so, the soil has dried up and things are looking better now,” he said.

“The crop is still growing at this time of year.”