British Sugar offers 'enhanced support package' after tough season

British Sugar has offered its 3,000 sugar beet growers a new support package
British Sugar has offered its 3,000 sugar beet growers a new support package

British Sugar is offering growers an enhanced support package for the 2021/22 campaign following one of the most challenging seasons.

The ‘Beet Package Plus’ was unveiled on Thursday (18 February) to British Sugar's 3,000 sugar beet growers.

It includes an enhanced 2021/22 contract beet price, with a built-in guaranteed minimum market linked bonus, underwritten by British Sugar, from 80p per adjusted tonne.

Cash flow support, allowing growers to defer their seed invoice until campaign, will be available interest free.

More campaign flexibility to accommodate beet deliveries was unveiled, recognising that growers do not wish to operate harvesters in fields that are waterlogged and not suitable for lifting.

The package also includes a guaranteed 2021/22 surplus beet price fixed at £20.30 adjusted/tonne.

British Sugar agriculture director, Peter Watson said: “Following a difficult season in 2020/21, we are pleased to offer this enhanced support package to our growers, to help the whole industry for the upcoming season.

"We thank growers for their considerable support over the last year and look forward to working with all our colleagues across the homegrown beet sugar industry in the upcoming season.”

The £12m Virus Yellows Assurance Fund also remains in place, starting from the 2021/22 campaign, which will compensate growers for a proportion of yield losses due to Virus Yellows.

Responding to the package's launch, NFU Sugar criticised it as not being good enough to stop growers quitting the sector all together.

The body has frequently expressed its concerns to British Sugar about the future viability of the home-grown sugar industry.

Continuing low contract prices, coupled with greater risks of yield loss from disease, means sugar beet is no longer viewed by many growers as a viable part of their rotations, it said.

“NFU Sugar has argued for a targeted package to acknowledge the risks growers have and will continue to face in growing the crop. This has not been delivered," said Michael Sly, NFU Sugar board chairman.

“To our growers British Sugar claims poverty, but to the City its parent company Associated British Foods recently announced a £100m profit for the global sugar division AB Sugar, driven in part by improved profitability at British Sugar.

"Market conditions this year indicate British Sugar’s profitability will likely continue to improve."

Mr Sly said NFU Sugar believed in the future of UK sugar beet, but remained concerned that British Sugar's 'complacency' put this at risk.

"We firmly believe that to have any hope of retaining the strong base of domestic growers for the longer term, sugar beet needs to give growers a viable financial return, something NFU Sugar will continue to fight for on our growers’ behalf.”