The 2019/20 sugar beet campaign came to a close in mid-April, when British Sugar’s Newark factory closed its gates for beet intake after 208 days – the longest known uninterrupted European sugar beet campaign, according to British Sugar.
A total of 7.77m adjusted tonnes were processed by the company’s four factories, which between them received 290,000 deliveries of beet over the campaign, with an average final yield of 78 tonnes per hectare. This is above the five-year average of 75t/ha.
After a very dry start, the campaign was affected by heavy rainfall which caused difficulties lifting the crop for many growers. In response to growers’ concerns about not being able to deliver their beet in time, British Sugar says it slowed its slicing rate at its Wissington and Newark factories to accommodate later deliveries, and also allowed growers to deliver beet to factories other than their contracted site, if it could not be delivered before that site closed.
Peter Watson, agriculture director at British Sugar, says: “We know that this has been a difficult campaign for our 3,000 growers across the East and East Midlands, with poor weather conditions impacting upon lifting.
“We share our sincere thanks with all our growers, contractors, hauliers and industry partners for their hard work and determination throughout the campaign, and their support in helping us to keep our factories running.
“It is testament to the resilience of our crop and the wider industry that we have achieved higher than average yields this year, and all of our growers and colleagues across the industry should be proud of the part they have played. As we look to prepare for the next campaign, we will continue to ensure that our home-grown sugar industry is among the most efficient in the world.”
NFU sugar chair Michael Sly says virtually all sugar beet was harvested in the end. "The industry worked well together to address the problems of lifting beet in very wet conditions this winter. NFU Sugar welcomed British Sugar’s decision to slow down factories to run the campaign longer and so allow fields to dry up and beet to be harvested. The drier period in the later part of the campaign also really helped with harvesting conditions."
Looking ahead, to this year’s crop, Mr Sly says: "Virtually all sugar beet is now drilled. Much went into very dry seed beds. For those parts of the country that have had a decent amount of rain the crop has got off to a good start, but there are areas that still desperately need rain (not least further north) and as a result germination has been delayed or is patchy.
"The biggest challenge this season is aphid pressure and risk of virus yellows disease. BBRO has been issuing regular bulletins to growers and we would urge growers to refer to them. Threshold levels are already being reached across the UK and growers are incurring additional costs of spraying. The home grown industry continues to work with Defra, HSE and manufacturers to provide growers with the plant protection tools they need."