Bumper beet crop on the cards for Norfolk's sugar farmers
PUBLISHED: 11:04 03 September 2011
A bumper beet crop is on the cards, according to the early results of British Sugar's pre-campaign sample programme.
And given further sunshine, further significant growth is expected ahead of the official start of the latest processing campaign on Wednesday, September 14.
Average sugar contents for British Sugar’s Wissington factory, which processes about a quarter of the national crop, have been above 17.5pc for the past two weeks.
The initial weekly pre-campaign sample results, which began last month, indicated average sugar content of 16.81pc.
And growth conditions have been very good for the crop, which is showing little sign of disease at this stage.
Industry commentator and Norfolk-based farm management specialist, David Bolton, said that beet could be the saviour for many growers especially on lighter land. “With a bit of luck, the beet crop will continue to underpin a lot of East Anglian agriculture.
“I’m aware of a number of growers who have already got 70 tonnes per hectare sitting in the ground. I’m excited for their prospects unless the weather causes problems towards the end of the campaign.”
In the Cantley factory area, the average sugar in the first sample dig was 16.47pc. It had risen in the latest trial dig to 16.71pc and was now more than 17pc.
British Sugar has refused to release this information on the grounds that such details about the rate of crop growth would be severely sensitive for the share price of the parent group, ABF. However, it has sent details to 4,000 growers of the factory averages.
West Norfolk farmer Ed Lankfer, who farms close to the Wissington beet factory, said that his father Roger was growing a large trial for British Sugar. A fortnight ago, the average sugar was 17.1pc.
“With another month to go, there is every sign that we could be looking at some very good sugar yields indeed,” he added.
Norfolk National Farmers’ Union’s chairman Francis Ulrych, of Park Farm, Griston, said that the prospects for sugar beet looked very good.
Mid-Norfolk grower, Robert Hambidge, who lost a significant tonnage of frosted beet during last year’s campaign, said that his crop had grown extremely well. “My beet are stonkers.
“They need a bit more rain because they’re drawing so much and obviously sunshine.
“I hope that I’ll have a good crop because I need one after the last campaign and to cover the 18cwt an acre of winter barley that I’ve just harvested.”
And a North Norfolk farmer said: “If you do the maths, it has been one of the best drilling seasons for this part of Norfolk. If you work on a plant count of 85,000 per hectare, and if each beet weighs a 1kg – it is effectively 85 tonnes per ha. Obviously, it is minus dirt tare and 6.77pc whole beet sampling crown tare. The crop should put on another 1pc, provided there’s no moisture limitation, it could 18pc or 19pc sugar – then that crop would be 85 tonnes per hectare.”