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NFU Sugar to hold meeting for sugar beet farmers affected by administration of Lincolnshire firm M & J Haulage

Sugar beet harvest. Picture: Ian Burt

Sugar beet harvest. Picture: Ian Burt

An emergency meeting is being organised for farmers affected by sugar beet contractor M and J Haulage entering administration.

Auditors KPMG have been appointed administrators of the Lincolnshire-based company, which harvests and hauls beet into British Sugar’s factory in Newark, Nottinghamshire.

Growers who were relying on the firm’s services this campaign have been urged to contact NFU Sugar’s helpline on 0370 066 1974 to register to attend the meeting on Wednesday October 18 in Newark.

NFU Sugar chairman Michael Sly said: “M and J’s demise not only creates huge challenges for growers, who may now struggle to find a replacement contractor to harvest and deliver their beet, but also brings into question the effectiveness of the Industry Harvest and Haulage Scheme and its ability to deliver a sustainable supply chain from field to factory.

“We have noted British Sugar’s assertion that contingency plans are in place for such instances, and that they do not anticipate any significant delays due to the loss of M and J Haulage. NFU Sugar urges British Sugar to share their plans with growers as soon as possible.”

Mr Sly also outlined his concerns about other “supply chain issues” at British Sugar factories – which also include sites at Cantley and Wissington in Norfolk and Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk – in the first few weeks of the campaign.

“Multiple breakdowns have already meant delays for growers in harvesting and hauling beet and do not instil confidence,” he said. “We are calling on British Sugar to invest in its four factories and supply chain to ensure they operate effectively. This will go some way to ensuring the home grown sugar industry continues to thrive in the post-quota world.”

Paul Kenward, managing director of British Sugar, acknowledged there had been some problems as the company’s factories began processing beet this season.

“We still have a long sugar beet campaign ahead,” he said. “For us, making sure our four factories perform well is a critical factor in the success of the campaign and it’s why we’ve invested £250m over the past five years in making our factories even more efficient and robust.

“It’s correct that some of our factories have had a difficult start to the campaign and this was in part due to us commissioning new equipment that will enhance the performance of the factories further. However, I’m also pleased to confirm that in recent days the performance at all our factories has stabilised.”

Mr Kenward said the company has “done everything we can” to support M&J Haulage, adding: “I’m very sorry to hear this news and our thoughts are with the employees and their families impacted by this sad announcement.

“We have contingency plans in place, which will be confined largely to the Newark factory area. We have identified other contractors to step into contracts to make sure that beet is lifted and hauled.

“We do not anticipate any significant delays, but if any grower is concerned, they should speak to their area manager or call the British Sugar helpline on 0870 240 2314.”

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