Meet the NFU Sugar Board

08 March 2024

A sugar beet harvester in a field

Find out who's who on the NFU Sugar Board and what their roles and responsibilities are.

The NFU Sugar Board exists to represent and promote the best interests of all UK sugar beet growers as their representatives, and work with NFU Sugar staff members.

Board members' roles and responsibilities reflect their personal expertise and ensure best representation for growers. The NFU Sugar negotiation team represents growers in the annual contract negotiations with British Sugar.

Michael Sly

NFU Sugar Board chair

Michael chairs NFU Sugar Board meetings and is the lead spokesperson representing sugar beet growers with British Sugar, the media, NFU Council and NFU Policy Board. He represents growers in monthly meetings and annual contract negotiations with British Sugar, playing a key role in the NFU Sugar negotiating team.

Michael farms in the Fens of North Cambridgeshire and South Lincolnshire, farming 2000 hectares, across three farming businesses. The family has been involved in drainage and farming in the Fens since the 17th century.

The farms grow wheat, spring barley, sugar beet, spring beans, oilseed rape, marrowfat peas and condiment mustard. They are part of the RSPB’s Farmland Bird Friendly Zone, which now covers more than 4000 hectares and landscape scale benefits covering 230km sq. Also with fellow mustard growers, they are working on a landscape scale bee and pollinator project with Unilever.

Michael has also served as NFU county chair and the council delegate for Cambridgeshire, the most farmed county in the UK, chairing the East Anglian regional board for four years, as well serving as chair of the NFU Audit committee.

Michael is chair of the North Level District Internal Drainage Board, serving 34,000 hectares. He spent 10 years on the Anglian Northern Regional Flood and Coastal Committee. He is currently chair of the English Mustard Growers and vice chair of Condimentum LTD for the milling of mustard seeds and processing mint leaf in Norwich, working with Unilever’s Colman’s brand.

Simon Smith

NFU Sugar Board vice chair | Beet Delivery Service/Mileage Working Group member | Recommended List Board

Simon supports Michael in his duties as NFU Sugar Board chair. A key part of the negotiation team, Simon is heavily involved in the annual contract negotiations with British Sugar.

He also sits on the Mileage Working Group on behalf of NFU Sugar and takes the lead on engagement with British Sugar to ensure the Beet Delivery Service delivers value for the industry.

Farming close to the Cambridgeshire-Suffolk border, Simon currently grows and delivers 40,000 tonnes of sugar beet into the Bury St Edmunds factory.

He also grows wheat, oil seed rape and beans, and runs a farm contracting business and agri-haulage company.

Since graduating from Shuttleworth Agricultural College in 1996, Simon has developed the farm business with a commitment to utilising sustainable and innovative growing techniques. He is committed to the continual development of the sugar beet crop amid challenging agronomic pressures and the removal of quotas in 2017.

Having had the privilege of participating in the 2014/15 Sugar Industry Programme, Simon was delighted to become an appointed member of the board. He lives with his wife and two sons, and when work permits, Simon can be found racing his Caterham or supporting Norwich City Football Club.

Graham Liddle

Seed Working Group joint chair | NFU Sugar Board

Graham works together with Andrew to represent NFU Sugar on the joint Seed Working Group.

Based between Selby and York, Graham farms around 2500 acres in partnership with his father growing wheat, barley, oilseed rape and sugar beet. This is split between land that they own and land that is shared or contract farmed.

Additionally, they run an agricultural contracting business which is mainly involved in combinable crops, dealing with individual jobs through to whole farm contracts. They currently harvest around 4000 acres of sugar beet.

After attending Askham Bryan College, Graham went on to study agricultural mechanics at Bishop Burton. He became BASIS qualified in 2012.

As one of the most northern growers and contractors of sugar beet, Graham is still committed to growing 11,000 tons of beet despite the closure of the York factory. With attention to detail, good performance figures can still be achieved around the Vale of York.

He was co-opted onto the board after taking part in the joint British Sugar-NFU Sugar Industry Programme in 2012 and has been an elected member since 2013. 

Andrew Ross

Beet reception chair | NFU Sugar Board

Andrew works with Alison on the Beet Reception Committee, representing growers’ interests. They work closely with Sarah Smith (Beet Intake Manager) to engage with British Sugar on behalf of the sugar board to ensure the smooth operation of the Beet Reception function and the factory forums.

They also assist with beet intake and tarehouse functions in the campaign along with seasonal staff recruitment.

Andrew has a degree in agriculture from Newcastle upon Tyne University, and is married with three children. Along with his cousin Stuart, he farms about 1500 acres with land in the Fakenham and Holt areas of Norfolk, growing wheat, malting barley, sugar beet and HOLL oilseed rape.

The farm is responsible for 8000 tonnes of sugar beet quota.

Andrew was BASIS qualified in 1999 and has been on the professional register ever since. He participated in the Sugar Industry Programme in 2011 organised by the NFU and British Sugar.

Andrew was vice chair of the North Norfolk NFU from 2009 to 2011 and chair from 2011 to 2013. He has been chair of his local parish council for the past 10 years and has been an active committee member of Holt RFC on and off over the last 30 years.

Andrew previously sat on the Red Tractor Assurance Board for Combinable Crops and Sugar Beet before becoming the chair of the Beet Reception Committee. 

Tom Clarke

Climate-friendly farming chair | NFU Sugar Board

Tom works with Alison to lead on climate friendly farming policy on behalf of the NFU Sugar Board. They attend the monthly NFU net zero strategic advisory group, ensuring sugar beet growers are represented in discussions regarding the NFU’s 2040 net zero ambition.

As well as sugar beet, Tom grows milling and biscuit wheat, potatoes and linseed on the recently expanded 420ha farm near Ely in the Fens. He is an AHDB Board Member and Cereals & Oilseeds Sector Council Chair.

He joined HLS in 2012 and has formed the Ely Nature-Friendly Farming Zone with 22 neighbours and counting, in partnership with the RSPB.

He is keen to educate the public about food and farming. This sees him host local school visits as well as running the Prickwillow Ploughing Festival with the local museum, getting around 2000 visitors every year. He is also active in standing up for British farming on social media and increasingly in the written and broadcast media.

Tom has a degree in economics and politics and an MBA from Warwick Business School. He worked in journalism, local government and as a management consultant across public and private sectors before unexpectedly having to return to run the family farming company in 2009. He is now an accidental fourth generation farmer. He has never studied agriculture but rather ran the business side of things and has learned how to farm 'on-the-job’. Tom was selected as an Emerging Leader at the 2019 Oxford Farming Conference.

Tom said: “Beet growers have a great story to tell about homegrown sugar and the progress we have made so far. There is always more work to do, and crucially through better cooperation I believe growers can seize opportunities, win greater economic power and gain more control over our industry and our livelihoods.”

Alison Lawson

Vice chair of Beet Reception | Climate-friendly farming vice chair | NFU Sugar Board

Alison works together with Andrew on the Beet Reception Committee, representing growers’ interests. She also works with Tom to lead on climate friendly farming policy on behalf of the NFU Sugar Board.

She has worked on her family farm in South Norfolk for much of her life. Working closely with her family, she farms and runs a busy agricultural contractor business, covering an area from North Norfolk down to Essex and across to Cambridgeshire. 

Alison's father was a pioneer of the first six-row self-propelled sugar beet tanker harvester. Today the team harvests around 1500 acres of sugar beet and has a 4000 tonne contract of their own. They grow W wheat, OSR, and W barley. As a business, they have always appreciated the loyalty of customers, and the importance of building long-term business relationships, some now spanning three generations.

Alison's college years were spent at Hampden Hall in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire, and the Norfolk College of Agriculture. She participated in the 2014/2015 Sugar Industry Programme.

She lives with her partner Simon, who works as an agronomist, and her son, Joe.

Paul Harper

NFU Sugar Board appointee

Paul has spent his entire career in commodities and has been in sugar since 1976. He joined C Czarnikow in 1973 working in their London, New York and Singapore offices.

He left in 1989 to join Sucden in Paris, then left with other senior management in 1991 to start CR Sugar trading in London as joint Managing Director (CR Sugar was the London office of Czarnikow Rionda).

In 2000, Paul started Sussex Commodities and held a board position with an associate ex ED & F Man, and from 2004 he has been running his own trading company.

Paul has a huge amount of consultancy experience, having consulted for a hedge fund, major bank and a large trade house in sugar during that time.

Kit Papworth

BBRO Stakeholder Committee | NFU Sugar Board

Kit works with Tim to engage with the BBRO on behalf of the NFU Sugar Board and take decisions necessary to ensure the smooth operation of the BBRO. They ensure all growers' views are fully represented at BBRO Stakeholder Committee meetings throughout the year.

Kit is a director of LF Papworth Ltd and Tuttington Farms Ltd. LF Papworth Ltd is a contract farming business based near Aylsham in Norfolk farming 1250 hectares on behalf of over 20 different landowners.

Kit has specialised in combinable crops and sugar beet. He is on the BASIS professional register and is responsible for the farm’s agronomy and crop recording, health and safety and HR. LF Papworth Ltd won the Norfolk Champion Farms competition for 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2014.

Kit was a board member of Anglia Farmers for 12 years and was chair from 2011 to 2014, retiring from the board to chair the subsidiary AF Logic until its sale in 2017. He joined the NFU Sugar Board in 2020 with specific responsibilities for Red Tractor. Kit stepped down from his sugar board Red Tractor representation when he took up the role of Red Tractor Crops and Sugar Chair in September 2022.

Kit has been on the council of the Aylsham Show for many years, managing the food theatre. He is chair of Pensthorpe Conservation Trust. He has three children and lives with his partner Caroline.

Tim Beaver

BBRO Stakeholder Committee | NFU Sugar Board

Tim works with Kit to engage with the BBRO on behalf of the NFU Sugar Board and take decisions necessary to ensure the smooth operation of the BBRO.

Tim is an arable tenant farmer in South Lincolnshire. Farming across a complete range of soils, he grows biscuit wheat, malting barley, oil seed rape and sugar beet.

He currently sits on the NFU Sugar Board representing active sugar beet growers in what is proving to be a quickly changing market, ensuring growers get a fair deal from British Sugar. 

Ed Dale

Red Tractor Representative | NFU Sugar Board

Ed represents NFU Sugar on the Red Tractor Combinable Crops and Sugar Beet Board.

Ed grew up on a mixed farm in North Yorkshire which used to supply beet into York prior to its closure. He studied Agriculture with Mechanisation at Harper Adams and graduated in 2012.

As a SIP Alumni and Farm Manager at Stetchworth Estate Farms, he brings an exciting combination of knowledge and experience to the board.

Following a short spell travelling in New Zealand and Australia, he joined the Co-operative Farms as a trainee farm manager.

Ed progressed to assistant farm manger during his time with the Co-op/ Farmcare before joining Velcourt in 2015 as a farm manager.

After 3 years with Velcourt, he joined Stetchworth Estate Farms as farm manager. Stetchworth is a diverse rural estate with farming and a significant property portfolio being the two main enterprises.

The rotation is made up of cereals, oilseeds, pulses and sugar beet with the beet area accounting for between 150 – 200ha each year. There are also large arable mid-tier and woodland higher-tier schemes in place on the estate.

Andrew Fletcher

Seed Working Group joint chair | NFU Sugar Board

Andrew works together with Graham to represent NFU Sugar on the joint Seed Working Group.

Andrew participated in the Sugar Industry Program (2015/6) and enjoyed gaining a wider understanding of how the industry works. He is now enthusiastic to adopt his new role as a co-opted member of the Sugar Board.

Andrew manages a 1000ha Cambridgeshire farm growing cereals, oilseeds, pulses, sugar beet and potatoes.

He is leading the third generation of Sugar Beet growers for the business and with over 22 years experience has overseen many changes on the farm to keep this key crop, and others, profitable. The business grows 10000 tonnes of Sugar Beet for delivery to the Wissington Factory.

Graduating in 2001 from Newcastle University with an Agriculture degree, he returned to the family farm.

Andrew is BASIS and FACTS qualified. With the farm in the Countryside Stewardship mid-tier, Andrew is keen to trial and integrate innovative farming methods, seeking to minimise the farm’s environmental impact whilst keeping expenditure low.

John Scott

NFU Sugar Board

John grows just over 3,000 tonnes of beet on marginal land, 12 miles from the Newark Factory.

A first generation farmer, he studied Agriculture at Reading before going into the computer industry in a technical role.

Ten years later, John established an award-winning recruitment business, growing it to 100 staff and servicing some of the fastest growing and most innovative companies in the world, where he saw good ideas put into practice, fast. He also learnt to deal with complex organisational structures in large corporations.

Initially starting farming as a hobby, he finally went full time as the issues that Covid-19 would bring became apparent. Fully up to speed on good agricultural practice, he is also politically aware and commercially very experienced, and looking to bring a different perspective to the board.

He is interested in several areas of Board activity; beet delivery, factory performance (and sugar extraction), crop forecasting and AI, and the preservation and evolution of the IPA. His motivation for joining the board is primarily to help tackle unfairness in the supply-chain and support the industry to become an exemplar of best practice.

Robbie Childerhouse

NFU Sugar Board

Robbie is a partner in a fifth generation mixed family farm, which consists of 1,500 pigs and 350 acres. He grows a mixture of combinable crops alongside 1,800 tonnes of sugar beet.

BASIS, FACTS and soil and water qualified, he uses his skills and experience to farm as sustainably as possible.

Robbie is passionate about growing beet and bringing the views of growers within his area to the NFU Sugar Board.

His priority is to help secure a sustainable and profitable return for growers, increasing confidence in the crop and securing the future of the homegrown beet sector.

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