Peterborough: Sugar beet growers call for better prices
UK farmers said they were “sick” of being at the bottom of the European price table for sugar beet as they called for better prices for next year’s crop at a crunch meeting today.
More than 350 farmers attended the meeting at the East of England Showground in Peterborough this morning after their leaders rejected a price offer from British Sugar last week.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU), which organised today’s meeting, says it now has 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.
NFU Sugar last week rejected a British Sugar price offer of £30.67 a tonne during the Cereals 2013 event.
In a motion proposed from the floor today, growers agreed to forward contract details and pledges on to NFU Sugar to underline the unified commitment from the sector during negotiations on price.
Addressing the meeting, NFU Sugar board chairman William Martin said: “For many growers the British Sugar price falls short of what they have been asking us for and what is necessary to address concerns of having beet in the rotation. It is good to see that feeling reflected in the room today.
“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 together and with your backing. We have a clear aim, to ensure our colleagues in Europe are not paid more than us for the same product. Why should they be? We are sick of being at the bottom of the European price table. That is something that needs to change.
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“So we now move into phase two of negotiations with British Sugar. This demonstration of strength sends a clear signal to them that we are united and we will be expecting a much better price if they want us to agree.
“It is important to remember that it is not down to British Sugar to decide how much our farms are worth, it is down to each farmer individually. I feel very strongly that your farms are worth more than the current British Sugar offer, and we must remain resolute and united as negotiations continue in the coming months.
“Today’s meeting has given us a clear mandate to keep negotiating for a better, fairer price for all sugar beet growers, and ensure that the price you are paid reflects the value of the crop you grow.”
Afterwards, sugar 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”.
“Obviously, what we are hoping will come out of it is a better price, a more realistic price that takes more account of the true costs of growing sugar beet and the effects of growing sugar beet,” he said.
“I believe there was a firm commitment and a very credible commitment from all of them (the growers) that they would empower the NFU in any way they could.”
Although the current price was £28.50 a tonne, a lot of growers were unhappy given two difficult years for their harvest, he said, and needed a better price next year.
Prices needed to be equitable, and to reflect the better prices on offer in continental Europe, he said.
The beet crop price needed to reflect factors such as the damage to the soil, the difficulty in achieving a decent follow-on crop, and the need for the soil to recover, he said.