NFU Sugar and British Sugar announce changes to seed model

11 June 2024

Sugar beet seed in a container

Photograph: Gary Naylor Photography

NFU Sugar and British Sugar are delighted to announce ground-breaking changes to the UK sugar beet seed sector.

The changes follow an in-depth review and feedback from growers as well as changes to how British Sugar (via the UK Seed Account) markets seed.

NFU Sugar and British have agreed that from the 2025 crop onwards:

  • Growers and seed breeders will be empowered to buy and sell seed direct, or via third party suppliers, as well as via the existing UK Seed Account, operated by British Sugar and overseen by NFU Sugar. This will provide growers with more choice of where and how to buy their seed.
  • To supply British Sugar, growers will now be permitted to grow a wider choice of varieties which is expected to allow earlier uptake of new genetics and increase choice for growers.
  • The UK seed account – the route through which British Sugar sells seed – will change how it sells seed. It will be sold throughout the year and stocks will be released for sale as they become available, meaning growers can buy their desired seeds when its right for them.
  • The BBRO, NFU and British Sugar have set in motion changes to the Recommended List trials, which will be moving to evaluating finished products, rather than genetics alone. The intention being that the revised recommended list will represent what you actually buy, tested in a way it will actually be grown.

We’re pleased to have worked together with British Sugar to agree these important changes to seed purchasing so that it remains fit for purpose in our sector, which is facing exciting opportunities.”

NFU Sugar Board joint seed lead Andrew Fletcher

What does this mean for growers?

The model has been reformed with the intention of preventing the rush to secure seed at the same time, from the same place, and de-linking seed and contracting decisions.

Growers will be empowered to take up new genetics sooner, to increase the opportunity to secure the right varieties and traits they need, and to significantly reduce the risk of substitutions.

NFU Sugar and British Sugar have said the changes are designed to ‘offer you more choice and flexibility, support innovation in the sector, give you the best possible access to seed supply when and how you want it while preserving the most valued parts of the existing model’.

‘Transformational change’

On announcing the reviewed model, Andrew Fletcher, joint seed lead on the NFU Sugar board said: “We’re pleased to have worked together with British Sugar to agree these important changes to seed purchasing so that it remains fit for purpose in our sector, which is facing exciting opportunities.

“We’ve listened to feedback from growers about what did and didn’t work for them and believe that changes to the model will prevent a rush on buying seed, promote investment from breeders and reduce the risk of substitutions. This will ensure that we’re able to continue to produce sugar beet for the nation sustainably and efficiently.”

Head of Agriculture – Supply Chain at British Sugar Nick Morris also welcomed the joint agreement, describing it as a “transformational change [...] empowering growers with more choice and flexibility in their seed purchasing”.

“Sugar beet seed is a fundamental part of our industry, and we’re committed to evolving the buying model to meet grower demands, as well as supporting continued investment in seed breeding and seed technology. This will mean we can continue to adapt to emerging threats and performance opportunities,” Nick added.

He said the transition to using finished products in the BBRO Recommended List trials will also further support growers by “providing more relatable information for purchasing decisions on seed”.

Next steps

In a letter sent to growers, NFU Sugar and British Sugar have advised the 'transition will take time' and will look to provide more information, including detail on how the UK seed account will operate.

They committed to ensuring the information growers require about seed varieties, treatments, and availability will continue to be their priority, and that this transition to the new operating model progresses as smoothly as possible.

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