The NFU/British Sugar Beet Delivery Service annual report for 2022/23 has been published with the results indicating that grower satisfaction has improved as well as performance in many of the key metrics.
BDS objectives and aspirations
Five years ago, British Sugar made a commitment to NFU Sugar to ensure the BDS (Beet Delivery Service) delivers against three strategic goals:
- Maximise value to the industry
- Be acknowledged by the industry to be well-run and operated fairly
- Encourage and reward best practice.
Since that time, the BDS has improved its offering to the industry; for example, in keeping together well-functioning grower/contractor relationships even if another haulier offers to do the work slightly cheaper one year.
However, it had become clear that there needed to be more transparency about exactly what the BDS aims to achieve. Therefore, at the end of 2022, British Sugar made the additional commitments below.
The BDS aims to:
1. Provide a competitive offer:
- Be universally available to any grower (within 60 miles)
- Cost neutral to transport allowance from a growers POV (within 60 miles)
- High quality service level provided (>90% satisfaction rate)
- Drive a culture of improved standards across the supply chain - safety, reliable service, communication
2. Maintain a platform to provide visibility and influence across the beet haulage sector:
Support growers whose private arrangements aren’t working, either by moving onto BDS if practical, or connecting to alternative contractors
Support development of partnerships and collaboration across the supply chain, helping external parties working together
3. Make Maus loading available to growers (within 60 miles).
However, this will remain on ‘reasonable endeavours’ basis until these machines are more widely adopted and greater geographic coverage provided for.
4. Provide confidence to BDS contractors to invest for the future.
5. Provide growers the clarity and confidence in a contracted service level.
6. Provide growers with an offer where they will be sheltered from cost inflation, above average dirt tare, and rises in fuel.
Improvements amidst a difficult year
NFU Sugar Board Vice Chair Simon Smith shares his thoughts on the performance on the BDS during the last year:
“There’s been nothing quite like the year we’ve just had since the BDS, or the previous IHHS (Industry Harvest and Haulage Scheme), has existed.
“When we last had a major frost issue, during 2010/11, the IHHS had only just been developed and was being piloted on a small number of growers in Newark and Wissington.
“With such a devastating and unexpected hit to so many crops requiring British Sugar to need to find the right balance between deteriorated beet and good quality beet, most of us had to change our lifting and delivery plans whether we were on the BDS or not.
“Unsurprisingly, the best examples we can see in the BDS are those cases where the grower, haulier and British Sugar have maintained good communication and are able to respond to these unexpected events.
“Furthermore, the sudden closure of Cantley mid-campaign threw a particular challenge at growers and hauliers there. With diversions to Wissington and Bury required, and lower daily capacity, not all plans made pre-campaign could be fulfilled.
“I am glad that British Sugar has better defined the aspirations, objectives and indicators of the BDS, allowing us all to be clear on what the team is setting out to deliver.”
NFU Sugar Board Vice Chair Simon Smith
“Nonetheless, I am pleased to see that the survey results do not appear to show any impact on the very high satisfaction ratings given to a number of Cantley hauliers.
Concerns still need to be addressed
“I am glad that British Sugar has better defined the aspirations, objectives and indicators of the BDS, allowing us all to be clear on what the team is setting out to deliver. I also welcome the changes being brought in by the new team at British Sugar, which I believe will help achieve these goals.
“The aim to provide a high quality service with average satisfaction rate of at least 90% is a very positive aspiration, though this hasn’t yet been achieved. I will be watching closely to understand what can be done this year to work towards it.
“The aspiration to be a platform that benefits the whole industry, not just BDS growers, is also a welcome commitment, and one that we will be keen to see delivered. This will make it a valuable service to anyone if they need it, such as in emergency situations.
“Overall, it is pleasing to see many key metrics in the survey results have improved compared to last year. Given the particular importance of crop recovery in a tough year like 22/23, I am especially glad to see the highest results yet for attention to crop recovery at loading site in the 5 years of running this survey.
“With overall satisfaction at the high end of previous years’ levels, in the context of a very difficult year, I think this is a sign of many relationships working effectively and responsively within the BDS, though there remains a group of growers who feel less confident in the system whose concerns will need addressing if British Sugar is to meet their target.
“I hope to see satisfaction with the BDS continue to improve into 23/24 which will inevitably be a different campaign again.”