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East Anglia’s sugar industry says EU pesticide ban will damage beet yields

PUBLISHED: 16:58 27 April 2018 | UPDATED: 16:58 27 April 2018

The ban on neonicotinoid pesticides has been extended to all outdoor crops, including East Anglia's sugar beet.  Picture: James Bass

The ban on neonicotinoid pesticides has been extended to all outdoor crops, including East Anglia's sugar beet. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2014

East Anglian farmers have warned of “significant impacts on sugar beet yields” following the EU’s decision to extend the ban on neonicotinoid pesticides.

The controversial chemicals were already banned for flowering crops like oilseed rape, after concerns were raised about their potential impact on the health of bees and other pollinators – although the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) maintained there was not enough scientific evidence to justify a ban.

But now the ban for three neonicotinoids – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam – has been extended to all outdoor crops following a vote by EU member states.

The move was welcomed as a major victory for wildlife campaigners, but farmers and processors have voiced concern over the viability of the staple East Anglian sugar beet crop when the new measures come into force following a phasing-out period of around eight months.

NFU Sugar board chairman Michael Sly said: “NFU Sugar is extremely disappointed by the decision to extend the ban on the use of neonicotinoids to sugar beet.

“We believe it is a regrettable decision that is not justified by the evidence available. The ban will have far-reaching impacts on beet growers as there are currently no sustainable alternatives to neonicotinoids. As a result, it is likely there will be significant impacts on sugar beet yields in the UK, exacerbated by our maritime climate that enables significant pest and disease pressure.

“Farmers are acutely aware of the crucial role bees play in food production and take extensive measures to provide habitats for wildlife on their farms. However, there is a real risk that these restrictions will do nothing measurable to improve bee health while compromising the effectiveness of crop protection. As a matter of urgency, the home-grown sugar industry will now be working with the government to try and secure solutions for beet growers ahead of the 2019 crop.”

READ MORE: Ban on ‘bee-harming’ neonicotinoid pesticides extended to all outdoor crops after EU vote

Paul Kenward, Managing Director of British Sugar added: “This is an extremely disappointing decision reached by the European Commission that will impact the UK beet sugar industry disproportionately. We are working with the British government as a matter of urgency to try and secure solutions for beet growers ahead of the 2019 crop so that our farmers can maintain sustainable and productive harvests”.

“We believe the ban will disproportionately impact beet growers as there are currently no alternatives for farmers to use, and it will do nothing to improve bee health whilst compromising the effectiveness of crop protection.”

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