The 2020-21 NFU/British Sugar Beet Delivery Service annual report has been published and is available to read: Beet Delivery Service Annual Report.
Grower satisfaction with the BDS was unchanged at 82% and overall satisfaction with haulage contractors improved to 87% (from 84% last year).
However, only 79% of growers on the service rated their harvesting contractor as good or excellent, down 13% compared to last year.
Although satisfaction is generally high, we expect British Sugar to continually improve the BDS and ensure it provides a gold standard service for growers opting to use it.
Following the feedback from the grower survey and gained through assessments in-campaign with growers and contractors, we have ensured British Sugar improves a number of ways of working, including:
- British Sugar acknowledges awards and contracts need to be completed earlier which will allow contractors to make decisions on investment, complete site safety assessments with the growers and obtain necessary resource in a timely manner. They have extensively reviewed internal tender processes to remove unnecessary delays and process duplication. This coupled with IT enhancements will make the process quicker and smoother for all parties involved.
- British Sugar has responded to requests for advice or support with health and safety matters from growers and contractors alike. Support has been given readily in multiple situations to support difficult conversations. The BDS demonstrates best practice for the industry and as such it is important to call out behaviours which do not demonstrate our safety values.
Examples of this have been:
- Supporting haulage contractors in discussions with growers to provide solutions where sugar beet has been tipped by harvesting contractors in unsafe positions including under or very close to overhead powerlines requiring intervention (and associated cost) to move to an alternative location. This has been in conjunction with the local energy network for expert advice.
- Ensuring there are no negative repercussions which impact future working relationships and that alternative contractors are not appointed and encouraged to adopt unsafe working practices.
- Supporting growers to hold their contractors to account if their crops are not clamped in the pre-agreed locations where additional costs or delays may be incurred.
There are also further improvements and commitments British Sugar has made as detailed in the BDS annual report.
On behalf of growers, NFU Sugar will continue to monitor and oversee the BDS to ensure these and the other changes in the report deliver results and add further value to growers.
Vice Chair of the NFU Sugar board, Simon Smith, said: “I am keen to see the BDS provide growers with a ‘gold standard’ service of beet harvesting, collection and haulage every year, regardless of whatever challenges are inevitably thrown at us.
"Although satisfaction in general remains high, which is a credit to those operators providing growers with the communication and coordination that they should expect, it was disappointing to see a smaller proportion of growers tell us the BDS supported their yield recovery."
He continued: "Furthermore, despite the aspiration this year, it was disappointing that growers were only informed of their allocated contractors in mid-July, very similar to last year.
"Many of you told us that value can be added if this is done well before the cereal harvest, so we continue to call on British Sugar to organise the tender process in a way which allows this to happen."
Steps in the right direction
Mr Smith concluded: “Nonetheless, it is positive that British Sugar are taking steps in the right direction.
"It is refreshing, for example, that British Sugar has indicated to us they want contractors to tender a sustainable price to deliver high service levels in the long run, and that they want to understand contractors’ businesses.
"I look forward to seeing this approach add greater value to growers in the coming campaigns.”