British Sugar offers producers guaranteed prices as costs soar

06:00 11 March 2022

East Anglia sugar beet growers have been offered guaranteed prices for their crop amid soaring costs for inputs such as fuel and fertiliser.

British Sugar has announced that all sugar beet contracts for the 2022/23 season, regardless of contract length, will pay at least £27 per tonne.

The company said its producers are currently exposed to “significant cost inflation”, and with processed sugar prices also rising, the company says it is the “right thing to do” to reflect this in the amount that it pays to the producers.

It comes as the rising cost of food production has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and its impact on global commodity markets.

The headline rate of £27 per tonne will apply to all contracts relating to the crop which is about to be planted – bringing all payments into line with the new one-year contracts negotiated in September with the Council of the National Farmers Union Sugar (NFU Sugar) .

Any contracts with a fixed price below that figure will be unilaterally raised to £27 a tonne, which will also be the price for surplus beet for the 2022/23 harvest, British Sugar said.

Growers whose contracts have a market premium element will receive a guaranteed market premium of £5.82, which also brings their price to £27 per tonne, paid as the crop is delivered.

Dan Green, appointed as British Sugar’s new agriculture director last month, said: “We have been working closely with NFU Sugar to understand the likely cost to growers for this year’s sugar beet crop, and therefore we believe that we must guarantee a price to all producers.

He added that he was committed to “strengthening collaborative relationships” with growers and identifying opportunities to ensure that sugar beet “remains economically viable for all”.

Sugar beet is a staple East Anglian crop, produced for British Sugar’s four factories at Cantley and Wissington in Norfolk, Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk and Newark in Nottinghamshire.

In recent months, rising costs, extreme weather, virus risks and low prices have led to criticism from farmers that the processor is not doing enough to balance the risks and benefits of the culture.

Rachel J. Bradford