Sugar beet harvest is beaten by the cold

SEVERE wintry weather has had a ‘disastrous’ impact on sugar beet yields outside Boston, with some farmers ready to turn their back on the crop for good.

Large quantities of the vegetable in our area are set never to leave the ground after December’s extreme low temperatures disrupted the harvest and damaged the crop itself.

British Sugar, which runs a processing factory at Newark, has turned away a number of deliveries of frost-affected sugar beet, and the concern among our farmers now is if the crop was harvested, it would not be accepted.

This would leave them even more out-of-pocket, given the cost of picking and transporting the goods.

Holland Fen farmer Mark Leggott, vice-chairman of the national combinable crops board for the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), said: “We can’t chance it.”

“We are cutting our losses now,” he added.

Mr Leggott said about 50 per cent of his sugar beet crop was still in the ground, describing the situation as ‘disastrous’. If it had not been for last year’s early - and severe - onset of winter, the crops would have been harvested in December, he said.

A spokesman for British Sugar said it aims to accept ‘as much processable beet as possible’ and is working with the NFU to help growers absorb the losses.

Mr Leggott said the impact of the reduced yield is likely to be felt by the consumer as well, with fewer beets on shop shelves and higher prices as food miles go up.

Longer term, it may see some farmers turn their back on the crop in favour of those that can be harvested away from winter and bring greater profits.

“Some growers will decide it’s the final straw,” said Mr Leggott, adding: “The price we currently receive does not seem commensurate with the risk for growers.”