The sugar beet industry, both in the UK and further afield, is currently subject to enormous changes. This review aims to help you, the growers, understand the changes which are already upon us, as well as those which lie ahead. We have been talking for some time of the impact of 2017, and the end of the European Sugar Quota regime; this impact is already beginning to make itself felt on our businesses, and there is potentially more to come. I would like to mention briefly here subjects which you will find discussed in more detail elsewhere in this review.
The end of EU sugar quotas on October 1st 2017 has been known about for some time now. What has been less clear is what will be the effect of this dramatic change on the EU market, and thus on sugar beet growers in the UK. We are now starting to see the market reacting. Across Europe, processors are stating their intention to increase sugar production as soon as they are allowed to do so. In an era of low world prices, this increased production seems bound to have to be at lower cost than we have been used to, which raises questions of how the UK can compete, or even whether we should try. The NFU is clear: the UK can continue to produce sugar competitively in the future, but we will have to adapt to do so.
Adapting our businesses to compete will inevitably involve difficult decisions for many growers. I am grateful to those growers who took part earlier this year in IPA Working Groups, which aimed to help us understand what growers believe needs to change for us to remain competitive. Two consistent themes were improvements to logistics, namely the arrangements for harvesting, storing and delivering the crop to the factories; and investigating the possible benefits of a beet pricing system which in some way reflects the sugar market. I am very pleased that our recent agreement with British Sugar for the 2015 crop includes a commitment to work together on both these topics. We hope to be able to report initial progress by the end of the year.
As we prepare to harvest and deliver what has the potential to be a big crop this year, we can take confidence from the steps we are taking to secure our industry for the future. The reconstituted BBRO is going from strength to strength, and will help us to maintain the progress we have made with the yield of the crop in recent years. British Sugar continues to invest in their factories, essential if we are to rise to the challenge of increased productivity. Perhaps most importantly, growers will continue to enjoy the right to collective representation and negotiation with British Sugar, through the NFU. We will continue to strive to ensure that growers receive a fair return for their investment in the crop, and that any changes after 2017 are implemented in a fair and transparent way. Things will be different, but I am confident that for many of us sugar beet will continue to have an important place on our farms in the future.
Click below to read the Sugar Review: