Optimism for beet campaign as British Sugar factories steam into action

The British Sugar factory at Cantley .The 2015 sugar beet campaign gets underway.Picture: James Bass

The British Sugar factory at Cantley .The 2015 sugar beet campaign gets underway.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

The region's sugar beet campaign has steamed into action this week, as Norfolk's two processing factories received the season's first deliveries from farmers.

The British Sugar plant alongside the River Yare at Cantley fired up yesterday to complete the launch of this year's operation, following the earlier starts at Wissington, near King's Lynn, on Monday, and Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk, and Newark, in Nottinghamshire, last week.

In good harvesting conditions, growers and processors are optimistic of good yields and sugar contents from East Anglia's beet, which has benefited from the recent sunny weather.

British Sugar's agriculture director Colm McKay said: 'The guys at the factory say supplies are looking good, so growers are looking to harvest in these good conditions.

'I have not got the sugar contents for Cantley yet, however, I would expect the content to be over 17pc, because that is what we are seeing in at our other sites. We tend to find that the sugar content at Cantley tends to be a bit higher, but we will not know until the samples have gone through the tare house.

'This recent sunny weather will help with pushing up the sugar content even higher. It is too early to say what the yield will be, but it is fair to say that the crop is looking pretty good in the Cantley area and growers are feeling fairly positive about the prospects.'

Mr McKay said he also wanted to remind growers to plan for a shorter campaign this year.

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'We have contracted for 20pc less tonnage this year, in agreement with the NFU (National Farmers' Union), to help reduce the high stocks of sugar,' he said. 'So the campaign will be shorter, and I would like to remind growers to remember that in their harvesting and delivery plans. Instead of going through until the end of February or early march, it is likely the campaign will be more likely to finish at the end of January.'

William Martin, chairman of the NFU Sugar Board, farms at Littleport near Ely. He said this year's low contract prices – the result of global oversupply – made it imperative for farmers to get a good yield.

He said: 'Yield is important to help farmers to fulfil our contracts. This year, the price over and above our contract is very low, so there is no value in the extra tonnage, but most of us planned quite ambitiously for our contract to make it pay. If you plan for a low yield, you'll never make any money.

'I think the prospects are fair. The yields look reasonably encouraging, but the sugar content has been a little bit disappointing so far. But with the sunshine that will improve in the next few days.'