The NFU has called for urgent talks with British Sugar following its announcement this morning that it is to close three of its UK sugar processing plants.

Farmers providing sugar beet to factories in Ipswich in Suffolk and Bardney in Lincolnshire will be directly affected this year, and those delivering to Kidderminster in the West Midlands at the end of the 2001/2002 campaign.

Some other growers may also be asked to deliver to different factories.

The NFU has described the significant changes and job losses as disturbing for growers and the local economies, although the decision to expand capacity at the Allscott factory will help to safeguard the future processing of beet in the West Midlands.

Chairman of the NFU’s Sugar Beet Committee Matt Twidale said: “Growers identify strongly with their local beet factories and will be seriously concerned by this news.

“British Sugar’s commitment to process the entire UK beet crop is not in question, but some growers will have to transport their beet further and there is a risk that some may have to keep it longer on their farms before it can be processed. There is a cost associated with that.”

The IPA* contract contains an agreement from British Sugar to help farmers now faced with increased transport costs, which was secured by the NFU following past factory closures. This will provide some comfort for growers.

NFU Vice President Michael Paske said: “While it is imperative that we have an efficient sugar producing industry, these changes are considerable and will have an impact on growers and their transport arrangements.

“We will be keen to ensure that any adverse impact on growers of these factory closures is kept to the absolute minimum.”

Notes to editors

* The IPA is the national sugar beet production contract negotiated between the NFU and British Sugar in line with the requirements of EU regulations.