Reflecting on the 2020/21 sugar beet campaign

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NFU Sugar's beet intake manager Greg Brighouse gives us his from-the-factory insights.

While looking up synonyms for 'challenging' in a thesaurus, I come across these words: stimulating, defiant, testing, demanding, and difficult, among many other entries. Given this year’s 'challenging' campaign, I think we can warrant adding 'growing sugar beet” to the list of synonyms.

I am writing this in mid-March following the closure of the Wissington and Bury St Edmunds sites, but just before Newark and Cantley take in their final loads of beet for this exigent campaign. I would like to reflect on the determination and tenacity of the sugar beet grower after delivering crops to the factories for processing into sugar, despite the devastating campaign.

Growing complaints

This year has seen record levels of dirt tares, which has in turn led to NFU Sugar being kept busy with a record number of grower complaints that we've submitted on your behalf to British Sugar for review. Appeals against any complaints must be raised before the 15 May by writing to bmZ1X3dpc3Npbmd0b25AbmZ1Lm9yZy51aw== and outlining your reasons for wanting to appeal the initial complaint result.

When compared to many other campaigns, the beet intakes at the four sites, together with the tarehouse, have run very well, with hardly any downtime due to breakdowns or mechanical failures. It's one success to take away from this campaign.

Sugar beet - Michael Sly

A new project

As part of upcoming investments in the factories, an exciting new project is underway to upgrade and improve the beet intake and testing functions for the sites. It's imaginatively called the Future Tarehouse Project.

This project is being conducted jointly by NFU Sugar and British Sugar, to identify and review all of the options available (worldwide) with a view to selecting the best process for sampling the beet deliveries to each site and testing the subsequent samples sent to the tarehouse.

We are still in the early stages of this multi-year project, and any potential new system will be thoroughly compared and verified against the existing intake and sampling process to ensure it is fit for purpose in terms of accuracy and consistency.

Thank you for your feedback

During the campaign we held joint factory forums, which proved yet again how useful it is to hear directly from growers and to gather your views. I would like to thank everyone who took part in these and who made your voice heard.

The forums are organised for each factory at the beginning, and towards the end, of campaigns, so look out for your invitation or contact the Wissington office if you would like to ensure your place. Unlike with other campaigns we have had to hold virtual meetings, which have proven to be very successful in terms of attendance and flexibility.

I would also like to say a personal thank you to all the NFU Sugar seasonal teams at each site and in the tarehouse, acknowledging all the hard work they have put into this campaign, monitoring the beet intake and sample testing.

The NFU Sugar board and team continue to work hard on your behalf to secure a bright future for the industry.