Sugar beet growers offered guaranteed prices amid rocketing costs

Daniel Green is the agriculture director for British Sugar

Daniel Green is the agriculture director for British Sugar - Credit: British Sugar

East Anglia's sugar beet farmers have been offered guaranteed prices for their crop amid soaring costs for inputs such as fuel and fertilisers.

British Sugar has announced that all sugar beet contracts for the 2022/23 season, regardless of contract length, will pay at least £27 per tonne.

The firm said its growers are currently exposed to "significant cost inflation", and with processed sugar pricing also rising the company says it is the "right thing to do" to reflect this in the amount it pays growers.

It comes as the rising cost of food production has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and its impact on world commodity markets.

The blanket £27 per tonne rate will apply to all contracts linked to the crop which is about to be planted - bringing all payments in line with the new one-year contracts negotiated in September with the National Farmers' Union's sugar board (NFU Sugar).

All contracts with a fixed price below that figure will be unilaterally raised to £27 per tonne, which will also be the surplus beet price for the 2022/23 crop, said British Sugar.

Growers whose contracts feature a market bonus element will receive a guaranteed market bonus of £5.82, which also brings their price to £27 per tonne, paid as the crop is delivered.

Dan Green, appointed last month as the new agriculture director at British Sugar, said: “We have worked closely with NFU Sugar to understand growers’ likely cost for this year’s sugar beet crop, and as a result we believe we need to guarantee a price to all growers.”

He added that he was committed to "strengthening collaborative relationships" with growers, and to identify opportunities for sugar beet to "remain economically viable for everyone".

Sugar beet is a staple East Anglian crop, produced for British Sugar's four factories at Cantley and Wissington in Norfolk, Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk and Newark in Nottinghamshire.

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In recent months, rising costs, extreme weather, virus risks and low prices have prompted  criticisms from farmers that the processor has not been doing enough to balance the risk and rewards of growing the crop.