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Sugar factories finally complete longest-ever campaign after torrid season for beet growers

PUBLISHED: 10:42 05 May 2020 | UPDATED: 11:46 05 May 2020

British Sugar has praised growers for delivering above-average yields in difficult conditions during the longest-ever sugar beet campaign. Pictured: Cantley sugar factory at dawn in January. Picture: David Brooker / iWitness24

British Sugar has praised growers for delivering above-average yields in difficult conditions during the longest-ever sugar beet campaign. Pictured: Cantley sugar factory at dawn in January. Picture: David Brooker / iWitness24

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The East’s beet sugar industry has finally completed its longest-ever campaign – and it is celebrating above-average yields despite the challenges of a rain-affected season.

Peter Watson is the agriculture director of 
British Sugar. Picture: Gary NaylorPeter Watson is the agriculture director of British Sugar. Picture: Gary Naylor

The 2019-20 season was particularly difficult for East Anglia’s sugar beet growers. After a very dry start, farmers were beset by prolonged heavy rain and sodden ground which hampered efforts to harvest the region’s staple beet crop.

That prompted a reduction in slicing rates at sugar factories to slow down processing and extend the scheduled campaign dates to give farmers more chance to make their deliveries. Growers were also permitted to deliver beet to factories other than their contracted site, if they could not deliver before that factory closed.

After the sites at Cantley near Acle, Wissington in west Norfolk and Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk closed in March, the campaign continued until mid-April when British Sugar’s fourth factory in Newark finally closed its gates after 208 days – ending the longest-known uninterrupted European sugar beet campaign.

British Sugar said a total of 7.77m adjusted tonnes were processed by the four factories, which between them received 290,000 deliveries of beet during the campaign, with an average final yield of 78 tonnes per hectare. This is above the five-year average of 75 tonnes per hectare.

READ MORE: New British Sugar boss hails farmers’ remarkable resilience in testing times

Peter Watson, agriculture director at British Sugar, said: “We know that this has been a difficult campaign for our 3,000 growers across the East and East Midlands, with poor weather conditions impacting upon lifting.

“We share our sincere thanks with all our growers, contractors, hauliers and industry partners for their hard work and determination throughout the campaign, and their support in helping us to keep our factories running.

“It is testament to the resilience of our crop and the wider industry that we have achieved higher than average yields this year, and all of our growers and colleagues across the industry should be proud of the part they have played. As we look to prepare for the next campaign, we will continue to ensure that our homegrown sugar industry is among the most efficient in the world.”


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