Sugar beet, natural benefits

On average 7.5 million tonnes of sugar beet is grown each year in the UK. It is delivered an average distance of 28 miles to reach British Sugar's factories.

Sugar beet is a cornerstone crop of arable rotations and is commonly grown in conjunction with wheat, barley or pulses. It provides a valuable break crop returning organic matter to the soil and preventing the build-up of disease.

It has a positive impact on biodiversity, particularly for bird life, providing cereal stubbles for winter habitat and food, whilst providing a nesting ground in Spring. A wide variety of species benefit in this way, including internationally important populations of stone curlews and pink footed geese.

Sugar beet is a root crop which is made up of sugar, fibre and contains a large amount of embedded water. Each year we survey the source and level of water our growers use to grow their crops.  Currently over 95% of the crop relies solely on rainwater for its growth; the water removed in the harvested roots represents just over 1% of the rainwater that falls on the crop during the growing season.

In recent years an industry crop assurance standard has been developed, which now forms part of the Assured Combinable Crops and Sugar Beet Scheme. It covers production, food safety and environmental safety criteria and has become a condition of all of our grower contracts. Food produced to this standard is eligible to carry the prestigious Red Tractor logo and can be seen on packets of Silver Spoon granulated sugar.

GM Sugar beet


GM beet is not approved for cultivation in the European Union and it would therefore be illegal to grow it for commercial purposes. In addition, British Sugar UK’s current contract requires that the grower shall not grow, or attempt to grow, sugar beet from any GM source. British Sugar continues to monitor the views of its customers and the end consumer towards this technology and is reviewing the progress of these new gene technologies and any associated benefits and risks.

sugar beet, fresh from the ground in farmers hands