Sugar beet growers ponder life after quotas

Dennington farmer Laura Rous addressing delegates at a sugar quota meeting for growers supplying the

Dennington farmer Laura Rous addressing delegates at a sugar quota meeting for growers supplying the sugar beet factory at Bury St Edmunds. The meeting, held in Peterborough on November 13, was organised by British Sugar and the National Farmers' Union. - Credit: Archant

Anaerobic digestion plants may be one option for sugar beet growers in a post-quota world, a meeting heard earlier this month.

Delegates at a sugar quota meeting for growers supplying the sugar beet factory at Bury St Edmunds.

Delegates at a sugar quota meeting for growers supplying the sugar beet factory at Bury St Edmunds. The meeting, held in Peterborough on November 13, was organised by British Sugar and the National Farmers' Union. - Credit: Archant

More than 400 growers were at the East of England Showground, Peterborough, on Friday, November 13 as speakers from home and abroad examined the future for sugar beet production once European Union quotas end on September 30, 2017.

They included National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Sugar board member and Suffolk grower Laura Rous, of Dennington Hall Farms, near Framlingham, who farms 1,200 hectares in a family partnership.

Her family decided on future cropping using the three Rs of returns, rotation and risk, she said. Beet had been less volatile and performed relatively well compared with the other crops grown on the farm, she added. It would remain an important part of the farm’s rotation, as long as the price stayed viable and it was still possible to harvest it at the start of the campaign, or harvest.

“Whether or not we grow beet in future is down to whether we get a return and whether it’s something we can manage sensibly,” she said.

Dennington farmer Laura Rous addressing delegates at a sugar quota meeting for growers supplying the

Dennington farmer Laura Rous addressing delegates at a sugar quota meeting for growers supplying the sugar beet factory at Bury St Edmunds. The meeting, held in Peterborough on November 13, was organised by British Sugar and the National Farmers' Union. - Credit: Archant


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She said there was also a need to look at alternative markets for beet, such as anaerobic digestion plants.

“There are 180 plants in this country now, with 500 in development. There’s a potential opportunity there in the future and something we should keep an eye on,” she said.

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NFU Sugar board chairman William Martin said quotas were ending but it was important to remember that much would still stay the same.

The NFU would still negotiate a price with British Sugar on behalf of growers, it would still have representatives in each factory looking after growers’ interests and growers could still sign up for a fixed price, set in advance of drilling the crop, if that suited their business.

Delegates at a sugar quota meeting for growers supplying the sugar beet factory at Bury St Edmunds.

Delegates at a sugar quota meeting for growers supplying the sugar beet factory at Bury St Edmunds. The meeting, held in Peterborough on November 13, was organised by British Sugar and the National Farmers' Union. - Credit: Archant

“There is an awful lot of good practice that continues.

“We can develop it, we can do more, we can do different things but that underpinning stability for those who want it, and those who value it, is there and will remain,” he said.

British Sugar managing director Richard Pike told growers the company was open-minded to different options.

“It’s your land. It’s your choice whether you grow sugar beet. If you do want to grow sugar beet and value the existing system, why would we take that away?

“However, if you don’t think what we have works for you are there other ways of doing things that improve what we have?” he said.

The meeting was chaired by National Farmers’ Union (NFU) vice president Guy Smith.

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