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Farmer's 8kg sugar beet crowned champion of Stoke Ferry contest

From left Colm McKay, agriculture director at British Sugar, presents the prizes for the Stoke Ferry Agricultural Sociiety sugar beet competition to Paul Wortley (3rd), Roger Eyles (2nd) and Jon Lowe (1st). Picture: Luke Lockhart

From left Colm McKay, agriculture director at British Sugar, presents the prizes for the Stoke Ferry Agricultural Sociiety sugar beet competition to Paul Wortley (3rd), Roger Eyles (2nd) and Jon Lowe (1st). Picture: Luke Lockhart

Luke Lockhart

An agricultural society heard from an industry leader about the post-Brexit future of sugar, after naming the winner of its annual beet growing competition.

Stoke Ferry Agricultural Society held its November meeting at Timbers Country Lodge, Fincham, on Tuesday.

After Jon Lowe, manager of the Wales Family Partnership, Eastgate Farm, Marham, took the Arthur Gilmour Sugar Beet Trophy for his 8.704kg beet, of the FLixter variety, members heard from Colm McKay, agriculture director at British Sugar.

Mr McKay spoke about the future of sugar beet after Brexit and said the industry needed to get better at telling the story of British sugar beet to the politicians and public.

There are 3,500 farmers growing 100,000 hectares of beet, he said, which is worth £700m to the British economy and supports 9,500 jobs.

Mr McKay explained British Sugar had invested £250m in its four factories and said, while sugar is the core product, the group also produces 500,000 tonnes of animal feed, reconditions 250,000 tonnes of soil, produces products for the pharmaceutical industry, produces bio-ethanol fuel and at Wissington has 18ha of glass which uses waste heat and CO2 from the production process.

The society discussed some of the needs of the industry post-Brexit to keep a “level playing field” which included:

No return to the 1970s quotas within the UK market which could penalise consumers.

The reciprocity of tariffs and standards with EU countries.

International development, including continued duty-free access for least developed countries.

No unilateral reduction of EU sugar tariffs given the significant state subsidies granted in some countries.

In the beet growing competition, second place went to Roger Eyes, from Northwold, with a beet (BTS 860) weighing in at 7.414kg, while third place went to society chairman Paul Wortley, from Methwold with a 6.863kg Aurora beet.

Nick Martin, from Bexwell, still holds the record for the heaviest sugar beet, a Trinita, grown in 2009 which weighed a whopping 13.314kg.

The next meeting is on Tuesday, December 5, at Ryston Park Golf Club at 7.30pm when the society will hold a quiz night.

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