Sugar beet ‘worth of revival’ – Kent

‘Badly missed as a useful break crop.’

Sligo News File.

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said plans by the Beet Ireland group to revive the sugar beet sector in Ireland “are worthy of careful consideration by tillage farmers” and the Government should look at helping “in every way possible.

He said:

Patrick Kent,
President ICSA

“The loss of sugar beet was a huge blow to the tillage sector and its effects are still evident to this day. Price per ton will be a critical issue to farmers but the potential to build a sustainable business for the long term is key.

“The growing demand for sugar is obviously a central consideration but modern beet processing provides many opportunities for diversified by-products. This would also be beneficial to the livestock sector with the ready availability of beet pulp nuts which have traditionally been a valued component of cattle rations.

“Sugar beet has been badly missed as a useful break crop. Tillage farmers are well aware of the need for crop rotation, but it is also a requirement for the CAP greening payment. Without sugar beet, the options for crop rotation are much more limited and make less sense in terms of soil management. It is also worth noting that modern
varieties of sugar beet are improving all the time in terms of yield. While current prices in the UK look weak, longer term it is very difficult to say where that market is going given Brexit uncertainty.

“However, a more significant factor may be the future of EU renewable energy policy. Negotiations around the RED II directive are moving into a critical phase at the EU parliament plenary session in the coming week (January 15) and it is vital that the Irish government and Irish MEPs support more not less biofuels in order to deliver the decarbonising of transport and as a way of supporting EU farmers.

“Another factor will be the blending rate for biofuels at a member state level. The Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment is considering increasing the biofuel obligation rate from the current 8% and this, along with decisions in other member states, will potentially increase the demand for biofuels if the right call is made.

“Countries such as France produce biofuels from sugar beet, although farmers in the UK and mainland Europe more typically grow wheat, maize and rapeseed for biofuels.

“Either way, increased demand for biofuels will be critical in determining the outlook for European tillage farmers and this will indirectly influence the profitability of sugar beet in Ireland.”