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Changes to UK sugar beet seed model announced

11 June 2024

NFU Sugar and British Sugar have announced reforms to the UK sugar beet seed model which will give growers more choice and flexibility, support innovation and address recurring issues with growers’ access to seed, while preserving the most effective parts of the existing model.

Changes will be made to growers’ contracts from 2025, following feedback from growers about availability of seed, as well as changes to how British Sugar (via the UK Seed Account) markets seed. These changes include:

  • Growers and seed breeders will be empowered to buy and sell seed direct, or via third party suppliers, as well as via the existing UK Seed Account, operated by British Sugar and overseen by NFU Sugar. This will provide growers with more choice of where and how to buy their seed.
  • To supply British Sugar, growers will now be permitted to grow a wider choice of varieties1 which is expected to allow earlier uptake of new genetics and increase choice for growers.
  • The UK Seed Account – the route through which British Sugar sells seed – will change how it sells seed. It will be sold throughout the year and stocks will be released for sale as they become available, meaning growers can buy their desired seeds when it’s right for them.
  • The BBRO, NFU and British Sugar have set in motion changes to the Recommended List trials, which will be moving to evaluating finished products, rather than genetics alone. The intention being that the revised recommended list will represent what you actually buy, tested in a way it will actually be grown.

Andrew Fletcher, joint seed lead on the NFU Sugar board, said: “We’re pleased to have worked together with British Sugar to agree these important changes to seed purchasing so that it remains fit for purpose in our sector, which is facing exciting opportunities.

“We’ve listened to feedback from growers about what did and didn’t work for them and believe that changes to the model will prevent a rush on buying seed, promote investment from breeders and reduce the risk of substitutions. This will ensure that we're able to continue to produce sugar beet for the nation sustainably and efficiently.”

Nick Morris, Head of Agriculture – Supply Chain at British Sugar said: “We’re delighted to have worked on this transformational change with the team at NFU Sugar, empowering growers with more choice and flexibility in their seed purchasing.

“Sugar beet seed is a fundamental part of our industry and we’re committed to evolving the buying model to meet grower demands, as well as supporting continued investment in seed breeding and seed technology. This will mean we can continue to adapt to emerging threats and performance opportunities.

“The transition to using finished products in the BBRO Recommended List trials will further support growers by providing more relatable information for purchasing decisions on seed.”

Notes to editors:

Growers will be required to grow varieties that are either on the Recommended List, were on the list in the past year or are on the Variety List and undergoing trials.