Diss: East Anglian sugar beet growers out in force for meeting on crop prices

Sugar beet growers at a meeting in Diss today organised by the National Union of Farmers to discuss

Sugar beet growers at a meeting in Diss today organised by the National Union of Farmers to discuss progress with its crop price talks with British Sugar - Credit: Archant

East Anglian sugar beet growers stuck in deadlock over crop prices were out in force today as they met in Diss to hear the latest on talks with British Sugar.

Stephen Rash addresses a packed audience of sugar beet growers at a meeting in Diss today organised

Stephen Rash addresses a packed audience of sugar beet growers at a meeting in Diss today organised by the National Union of Farmers to discuss progress with its crop price talks with British Sugar - Credit: Archant

In a show of strength aimed at making the company think again about its £30.67 a tonne offer for next year’s sugar beet crop, more than 250 farmers packed out the town’s Park Hotel this morning to listen to representatives from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) who are negotiating on their behalf.

Members of the NFU’s sugar board are due to talk to British Sugar tomorrow as part of a series of meetings aimed at breaking the deadlock over prices.

Although the firm has written to farmers asking them to sign up to the new contract and setting a deadline of July 31 for responses, the NFU is urging growers to stand firm while it continues its bid for a better price.

Its position has been bolstered by a campaign to get growers to pledge their crop to the NFU which has now seen more than five million tonnes signed up. British Sugar requires an estimated seven million tonnes of the crop a year.


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NFU sugar board chairman William Martin said it was “a terrific achievement” and “a credit to everybody”.

A similar meeting of growers in Newark last week had prompted growers to pledge 900,000 tonnes of beet to the NFU’s online campaign, he said.

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“I remain optimistic that we can and we will get this sorted out, but it’s a slow process,” he told growers.”

The NFU was continuing to fight for a higher crop price to reflect the cost of growing it, he said.

“The area they have not properly acknowledged is the impact of sugar beet on the rotation as a whole,” he said, adding that this was where NFU negotiators were focusing their attention.

He asked those growers thinking of signing up to the British Sugar contract currently on offer to think again.

“If we manage to get an increased price with British Sugar for next year there’s no guarantee you would actually get an uplift,” he said.

“We are here because we know as farmers we are incurring certain costs and certain risks for our business.”

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