I was invited onto the Sugar Board in 2018 and I'm proud we abolished crown tare, reformed the harvest and haulage scheme and fought the neonics ban.
But there is more work to be done.
THANK YOU to all the growers who kindly supported me at the elections in November 2019. I was delighted to be elected to the Board, and I will pursue the agenda laid out on this page to the best of my ability.
Please feel free to get in touch with me with any query, to raise any issue. That's my job!
Meanwhile, at the 2020 Board AGM I was pleased to be appointed Vice Chairman of the Beet Reception Committee, and NFU Sugar's lead on Climate Friendly Farming/ Net Zero.
To find out more about me personally see here
To find out what I want to do for growers see below
My key aims for the Sugar Board are:
Use our collective strength
Sugar Beet is one of the few UK crops where growers can act collectively to negotiate a price and police their processors behaviour.
Farmers aren’t used to holding such market power and it is a hard-won prize that must be protected. My view is that we must use it or lose it.
For me, that includes telling our growers directly when we think it is better to reduce planted area, or even stop growing beet.
No one should be growing beet that doesn’t make a decent profit.
One of our negotiating advantages over British Sugar is we have other crops to grow, while they need beet.
Win a higher return for growers
Higher returns are won from more than just higher prices.
Higher yields, lower costs, fewer, better & cheaper inputs, helping growers work together and securing better regulations all play their part.
Higher prices - We must negotiate the best price possible for growers, as well as seeking value from all other aspects of the beet regime such as delivery, testing, Ensuring long term profitability for the industry.
By acting together we have access to best genetics and innovations at lowest cost. Collective negotiation has delivered us the lowest seed costs in Europe. I know there are further gains to be made in future – reducing seed costs while getting better varieties.
Lower costs – through the BBRO we can get world leading research and share best practice giving growers tools and solutions to become more productive and make growing beet an ever easier and more pleasant cropping choice.
Make British Sugar play fair
It is NFU Sugar's job to police the way British Sugar treat growers.
We already do a lot - imagine a mill with grower representatives overseeing intake, testing, payment of wheat deliveries and running the complaints process for any claims or rejected loads!
Yet, as a monopoly buyer and as a large commercial organisation it’s tempting for British Sugar to play rough.
Our job is to make sure they don’t take advantage, or become complacent.
So I will not hesitate to call out unfair, unresponsive or dismissive behaviour.
I will always stand up for growers when British Sugar acts unreasonably or falls below our high expectations.
Promote the Homegrown Sugar industry to the Public
We have a great story to tell.
The UK Homegrown Sugar industry is one of the most efficient, most sustainable and greenest in the whole world. The process is virtually zero waste and there are a host of valuable co-products such as animal feed, betaine, Limex and topsoil.
Beet farmers provide habitats for a range of endangered species from Bewick's Swans to Stone Curlews. Grown on the right soils, beet in the rotation provides benefits in terms of weed and disease.
Homegrown sugar also has a negative carbon footprint. Each Hectare of Beet grown captures a net 37.5tons of CO2.
Eating too much of anything is bad for you. Sugar in the diet gets the blame for all sorts of ills, but in truth it is a fashionable scapegoat, which obscures a more complex picture.
Sugar is part of a healthy balanced diet just as are other “baddies” such as salt, fat, red meat, gluten, etc
As sugar will continue to be consumed, we should note the alternative to homegrown beet sugar is tropical cane sugar – this has vastly more environmental and social impacts and higher transport costs.
British consumers should buy our sugar with pride from shops and food outlets who are eager to stock it.
Take more control of the industry
Across the continent farmers have far greater ownership of the supply chain. They often own or hold stakes in processors as well as suppliers, banks and even retail brands and outlets. Such ownership gives access to the extra margins which come from supplying our inputs and the processing and marketing of our end product.
In the UK we have missed out on that opportunity to date.
I will be constantly seeking options for NFU Sugar to take more ownership of and influence over the wider sugar supply chain and so be able to share any returns on these between growers.
I will also be seeking ways for funding formation of new beet groups so growers can take more control over harvesting and haulage schedules as well as costs.
Securing a future for Homegrown sugar
UK beet growers only supply half the sugar the UK consumes each year. Even with falling consumption, there is room for expansion.
British Sugar is a big company, but is actually only a small and shrinking part of a much larger business which include global operations and the retail giant Primark.
The factories are very efficient but are very old, and its hard to see massive new investment in the factories (as opposed to ongoing repairs and renewals).
But British Sugar needs to succeed if we want to keep growing beet.
Current price negotiations are win:lose, so a penny more for us means a penny less for them.
I’m keen we get to a situation where growers can get benefit from higher efficiencies and yields, without losing those gains by a lower beet price.
The answer is developing ways for growers to directly access the Sugar market, as we currently are able to for wheat.
This would take the heat out of annual contract negotiations, and involve growers taking on comfortable levels of risk in order to access potentially much higher rewards.