British Sugar Successfully Concludes Record Breaking Campaign

Published online: Jun 03, 2024 News
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The 2023/24 sugarbeet campaign has finally concluded with Cantley slicing the last sugarbeet on Friday 19 April. British Sugar’s four factories processed over eight million tonnes of sugar beet during the campaign from September 2023 through to April 2024, producing approximately 1.1 million tonnes of sugar. The record-breaking campaign was one of the longest sugarbeet campaigns in history, totalling 228 days.

All four factories performed well with many records broken; Wissington experienced its second largest campaign with over 3.1 million tonnes of beet processed, Newark is thought to have experienced the longest sugarbeet campaign in Europe totalling 217 days, and Bury St Edmunds achieved a record for maintaining a premium slice rate over a period of 69 days versus 66 days in the previous year.

Recent investment in energy efficiency technology at Wissington with the commissioning of a £17.5mn new evaporator in Autumn 2023, saw scope 1 CO2e emissions reduce by 25 percent during this Campaign.

Dan Green, Agriculture Director for British Sugar commented, “We have just concluded one of our longest ever campaigns. It has been challenging for the whole industry given the amount of rainfall this winter and we want to recognise the effort our growers, harvesting contractors and hauliers have made to deliver this year’s crop into our factories. We are delighted with how well the factories have run over the campaign, showing that the investments we continue to make as a business ensure we are one of the most efficient processors of beet in Europe.”

Helping Our Growers
As part of a multi-million-pound grower support package, British Sugar announced it was decreasing slice rates at its factories to slow down throughput, allowing growers more time to lift and deliver their beet crop. In addition, a supplementary boiler was hired and commissioned at its Cantley factory, and the business offered to meet 75 percent of additional costs for Bury and Wissington growers to divert their beet to Cantley or Newark once their closest factory had shut.

Looking Ahead
With the 23/24 Campaign finished, heads turn to the 24/25 campaign. Green continues, “This is the fourth year in a row where we have seen drilling take place during mid-Spring. As of this week, we are over 90 percent of growing area drilled with sugarbeet seed.

“I am optimistic about the coming season despite the higher Aphid pressure we are seeing this year and obvious concern over potential levels of Virus Yellows. The crop area will be over 100,000 hectares, slightly ahead of last year. Providing we have some favourable weather during the summer, we expect to see some good crops, good yields and some good margins for our growers. This should encourage further investment in the industry, which is what we all want for the long-term."

British Sugar has some ambitious investment plans over the coming years at each of its four factories and its customer supply site at Bury St Edmunds. These include:

  • Steam drying investment at Wissington will hopefully be commissioned for the 26/27 Campaign with the potential to reduce site CO2e emissions by a further 50,000 tonnes per annum
  • New evaporators at Bury St Edmunds pre-silo to remove 20,000 tonnes of CO2e emissions ready for the 25/26 Campaign
  • Investments into CHP and water treatment plants at Cantley
  • A new turbine for Newark, and the new water treatment plant is now fully operational
  • Final investment underway at the Bury St Edmunds customer supply site for the retail bagging operations.