East Anglian sugar beet farmers owed millions in EU levy refunds

Sugar beet harvesting in Bale. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Sugar beet harvesting in Bale. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2013

Millions of pounds in over-charged levies will be refunded to East Anglia’s sugar beet farmers and processors following a European court ruling.

Sugar beet in a field close to Cantley.

Picture: James Bass

Sugar beet in a field close to Cantley. Picture: James Bass

Prior to 2006, the EU Commission collected a levy from producers to pay for the export of sugar outside the EU, with growers contributing via a deduction from the beet price.

But, following a challenge by EU sugar processors, the Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that the levy was calculated using a “flawed method” in 1999 and 2000 – meaning growers of sugar beet during that period are entitled to refunds of the overpayment, plus the interest accrued.

The sum, totalling more than £6m, will be split between growers and British Sugar. The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) will be responsible for making the repayment to British Sugar which, in turn, will make repayments to growers.

Paul Kenward, managing director of British Sugar, said: “I am pleased we are able to confirm to growers that, after a considerable period of time, we can refund the right money to the right growers. We’ve written to all growers asking them to complete a simple form so that we can submit the claims to the RPA, and we’d urge growers to return this to British Sugar as soon as possible.”

Cambridgeshire farmer Michael Sly, who is chairman of the NFU Sugar board said: “NFU Sugar is working closely with British Sugar to help ensure the circa 8,750 growers of sugar beet at the time get a refund. British Sugar asked that the costs of administering this refund to growers is covered by the grower base and I am pleased to confirm that NFU Sugar will cover these costs on behalf of growers.

“We urge all growers to look out for correspondence from NFU Sugar and British Sugar, and return the form they receive in order to apply for their refund.

“Growers can contact the dedicated helpline if they do not receive one or are in any doubt. The clock is ticking and we don’t want any grower to miss out.”

British Sugar and NFU Sugar hope to receive the payment around the end of September 2018. Completed forms must be received by British Sugar by May 25.

• For more details see the NFU Sugar website or call British Sugar’s helpline on 01733 422153.

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