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Upbeat message for sugar beet sector

PUBLISHED: 09:09 10 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:59 22 October 2010

beet growers are more than capable of staying in the game if they embrace change, despite sharply reduced prices.

That's the view of farm business consultant David Bolton, of Andersons East.

beet growers are more than capable of staying in the game if they embrace change, despite sharply reduced prices.

That's the view of farm business consultant David Bolton, of Andersons East.

"We've kept a close eye on the sugar beet regime negotiations and the industry is moving rapidly towards significant and sudden change."

Beet prices would fall to £23.17 in 2006 through £21.54 in 2007, £19.91 in 2008 to about £17.95 per tonne in 2009, said Mr Bolton, who is based at Bridgham, near Thetford.

"Speaking to our growers, it appears that the majority will survive, providing they introduce agronomic and manage-ment changes to optimise their production.

The impact of sugar beet price reductions on farm businesses would be complex.

But knee-jerk reactions involving input reductions would be wrong. Careful analysis of major fixed-cost elements including land, labour and machinery was needed too, said Mr Bolton.

Crop recording, care on income and accurate knowledge of time used, machinery committed and the cost of its provision were essential.

Mr Bolton has also looked

at modules of least-cost production. "Crucial to profitability is the scale of the ultimate operation. Ideally, a beet enterprise should be sufficient for a single harvester size, if a club is formed, or smaller if services are to be hired in.

"Our survey of growers indicates they should be selecting the most productive land available for efficiency and ease of ultimate delivery to factory. Previous and future cropping to time lifting to best effect should also be considered."

The suitability of land, its quality and its cost also need addressing. Norfolk growers, who produce nearly 40pc of the national beet production, are moving towards rectang-ular shapes within fields as being more suitable for both beet and cereal growing.

This leaves headlands to benefit the environment or even as fallow. With the price of beet dropping, rents associated would drop over time as well, said Mr Bolton.

Grower co-operation would undoubtedly be key to a successful UK beet industry.

Mr Bolton advised growers to appoint a dedicated leader of a beet team to

co-ordinate field planning, oversee drilling, harvesting and the logistics of movement.


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