NFU Council: How NFU Sugar is working for growers

First published: 12 October 2022

Michael Sly updates NFU Council

Headlining NFU Sugar board chair Michael Sly’s update to NFU Council was the 2022 campaign, the challenges of beet moth and the 2023 contract.

“Growers who put some of their 2023 tonnage on the futures contract have had the opportunity to lock in over £43/t,” Michael outlined, explaining the 2023 contract  had been finalised much earlier than the 2021 or 2022 seasons.

“The high price was mainly a result of the fluctuating exchange rate between GBP and USD rather than changing sugar fundamentals, but still demonstrates that growers can benefit from this additional grower economic empowerment, even when there is a higher baseline contract price, as we have for 2023.”

Mr Sly reiterated that British Sugar would need to keep contract prices high in 2024 to incentivise growers, as any u-turn will risk a collapse in area, as growers continue to face far greater risks from growing sugar beet than previously.

 

Insight into the 2022 campaign

Michael gave an overview of the current campaign, which has seen 87,300ha planted – 3% less than in 2021.

He said: “Yields have been very variable, depending on land type and how badly drought affected the plants. Some growers have lifted the crop early to cut their losses, but many want to keep it in the ground in the hope of increasing yield while the weather remains kind.

“All indications are that the national yield will be below the five-year average, but it is too early to estimate what it will be.”

Writing to all growers

Concluding his update, Michael shared images of a new pest that has infiltrated the UK sugar beet crop this year – the beet moth. A known pest in the Mediterranean, the main symptom of an affected crop is a black heart.

He said: “The good news is that as winter approaches and temperatures fall the moth activity will decline and cool, wet weather usually deters beet moth development, but it is important for growers to take action to reduce overwintering and passing on the problem to next year’s crop.”

NFU Sugar and British Sugar have jointly written to growers about this urging them to try to reduce overwintering by:

  • Ploughing-in crop residues
  • Avoid returning spoil from cleaning and loading, especially onto next season’s sugar beet fields
  • Ploughing in soil under maus clamps as it is likely to have a much higher pest burden.