2024/25 Sugar Beet Negotiation: An Update From The Chair And Vice-Chair

Published online: Nov 13, 2023 News National Farmers' Union, UK
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On Wednesday 1 November, British Sugar contacted all growers with a document which asserted to contain details of the 2024/25 Sugar Beet Contract Offer.

In response, National Farmers' Union Sugar Board chair Michael Sly said: “We are outraged that British Sugar contacted all growers earlier today and provided growers with a document which asserts to contain details of the 2024/25 Sugar Beet Contract Offer.

“NFU Sugar has not agreed this offer, leaving the validity of any contract made in relation to this offer in doubt. Further updates will be issued as a matter of urgency.”

The NFU Sugar Board believes that this aggressive action – in circumventing NFU Sugar – was undertaken in the hope that individual growers will accept a contract that gives them significantly less value than they should receive given anticipated market conditions.

Thus, enabling British Sugar to retain significantly more of the higher profits we believe they will earn in the 2024/25 period.

The Sugar Board remains outraged that British Sugar should do this rather than continue to work within the agreed process with growers’ representative body, NFU Sugar.

NFU Sugar’s Response

NFU Sugar has not agreed to the offer issued by British Sugar. To that end, it has written urgently to the farming minister, the Rt Hon Mark Spencer MP, asking for the following immediate interventions by Defra:

  • A statement to industry ahead of Monday 6 November confirming both the NFU’s vital role under Article 125 of Regulation EU 1308/2013 (the “CMO Regulation”) and the invalidity of contracts formed on the basis of BS’s unilateral contract offer.
  • Amendments to the CMO Regulation to avoid a repeat of the crisis in which we now find ourselves.
  • The exercise of statutory powers under section 69 of the Food Act 1984 (“the Food Act”) to determine the terms for the supply of sugar beet for the 2024/25 contract year.

NFU Sugar held an emergency meeting on Friday 3 November, where more than 800 growers attended, representing over half of all sugar beet grown in the UK.

Key Information For Growers

NFU Sugar has been contacted by many growers in the last 48 hours who have raised various questions and concerns about British Sugar’s communication. While not recognising the validity of the contract terms presented, the board believes it is important growers are aware of the following: 

  • There are many caveats, terms and conditions in British Sugar’s offer contained behind QR codes.
  • NFU Sugar understands some growers have been told by British Sugar account managers that the difference between British Sugar’s offer and NFU Sugar’s position is only £2/t and if they contract early they will have access to better yielding seed that would more than make up this difference. To be clear, NFU Sugar is fighting to deliver a package that has much greater value than this to growers, in properly sharing the extra revenue British Sugar is due to make from the extremely high forecast global sugar prices in the 2024 contract period.
  • Despite the claims in the seed information pack, this was not approved by the NFU representatives on the seed working group and differs substantially from what had been agreed. For example, it fails to include the results of four years of work by BBRO (British Beet Research Organisation) supported by both NFU and British Sugar on pellet performance.