NFU Council: How NFU Sugar is working for growers

23 January 2024

Michael Sly stood in front of a field

In his update to NFU Council, NFU Sugar Board chair Michael Sly provided an update on the continuing 2023/24 campaign, and gave thanks for the support received during the 2024/25 sugar beet negotiations with British Sugar.

Michael began his update by sharing an update on the current sugar beet campaign, where increased rainfall has caused challenges to both harvesting and increased root weights and lower sugars.

He forecast a national adjusted yield higher than the five-year average, at around 77t/ha.

Michael noted British Sugar’s recent announcement of the extension of campaign to end of March 2024 and expressed concern about the increased risks of a green bridge for aphids to move into new sugar beet crop this spring.

Ironing out issues at British Sugar facilities 

Factory performance has continued to be “hit and miss” Michael said.

NFU Sugar is keeping a “very close eye” on British Sugar’s use of ‘averaging’ to determine grower results for sugar and dirt when issues within factories mean samples aren’t taken, or cannot be tested accurately.

Thanking growers for their support

Michael ended his update by thanking NFU Council, the NFU’s staff team and sugar beet growers for their support during NFU Sugar’s negotiations with British Sugar for the 2024/25 contract.

“We immediately made it clear that we were outraged by what had happened,” said Michael.  

“What is more, it wasn’t just NFU Sugar criticising what British Sugar had done. We had respected agri-business consultancies supporting our position – and of course, a huge number of our growers.”

Michael described the rallying of growers as “truly humbling”, with over 70% of the national tonnage signing the NFU’s pledge to support the vital role of NFU Sugar in securing a fair sugar beet price for growers.

He said: “Growers also wrote 524 letters to 53 constituency MPs, expressing their outrage about BS’s actions and demanding Defra intervene.”

Michael noted that growers expected NFU Sugar to now close any loopholes in the law which could again be exploited in the future. This work is on-going.