NFU Council: How NFU Sugar is working for growers

26 April 2023

Michael Sly updates NFU Council

In his update to Council, NFU Sugar Board chair Michael Sly looked back at a challenging campaign and ahead to what’s in store for growers this year.

Wet, cold weather this March has meant later than normal drilling of the 2023 sugar beet crop. Compounding this issue, aphids are forecast to fly from this week, meaning recently emerged beet plants are likely to be attacked.

“Around 60% of seed being planted in 2023 has been treated with Cruiser SB, so the 40% remainder is at serious risk of Virus Yellows infection. Two foliar treatments have also been approved, and we are waiting for an emergency authorisation on a third, but the efficacy is never as good when most of the chemical falls on bare soil because the plants are so small,” Michael said.

However, Michael said that growers who opted for a proportion of their tonnage to go onto the futures market linked contract have had the opportunity to secure prices in excess of £55/t – much higher than the £40/t contract price offered by British Sugar – and demonstrating, he said, “how those prepared to take some market risk can benefit significantly”.

Latest campaign sugar production lowest in 40 years

The 2022/23 campaign saw yields impacted by the lowest crop area in many years, drought, beet moth and a severe frost event in December which led to more than 1,350 loads rejected at the factory and an estimated 350,000 tonnes of beet not being delivered

He said: “The forecast of 750,000 tonnes of crystal sugar produced from this crop is well down and the lowest in over 40 years.

“As a result British Sugar doesn’t have enough sugar to meet customer demand and has been obliged to import sugar from both beet and cane sources around the world and co-refine it, to meet its obligations.”

Mr Sly concluded by saying that had British Sugar been prepared to offer a higher contract price for 2022, more area would have been planted, British growers would have benefited and the shortfall would have been lower.