EU sugar beet production is expected to decline

Dry spring weather and early pest attacks have hurt sugar beet crops in the European Union (EU) where farmers discouraged by low returns had already reduced sowings, but good summer weather could limit losses, growers said.

It is reported by Successful Farming.

It was too early to give precise estimates as sugar beets were only entering the key development stage but it was unlikely this year's yields would be above average, growers said.

Based on this year's smaller sugar beet sowings and average yields per country, the 2020 white sugar production in the EU including Britain would reach 17.3 million tonnes, down 1.7% from last season, said Timothee Masson, analyst with French sugar beet growers group CGB.

Latest official estimates have put the drop in sugar beet area this year at 4.9% on the year in top producer France and 4.1% in Germany while Polish growers group KZPBC forecast a 1.7% rise in the country.

EU sugar beet growers have reduced sowings in the past years, discouraged by poor harvests and plunging prices to historic lows on large global surpluses.

All top four EU producers, which also include the United Kingdom, have also suffered from dry spring weather and aphid attacks carrying the jaundice disease. These prevent sugar beet growth and can cause 30%-50% damage in fields hit, Masson said.

Growers complained that most of the pest damage could have been avoided with appropriate insecticides, notably neonicotinoids, which have been banned to protect bees, growers said.

«The alternatives currently available are less effective and mostly more expensive», — said German sugar industry association WVZ managing director Stefan Lehner.

The weather in July and August will be key. If it is warm and wet yields could be fine, Masson said, adding that the impact of aphid attacks would be clearer in 15 days.

«In any case we are heading towards a year that will not produce enough sugar compared to consumption, which should allow prices to hold despite the COVID-19 crisis», — he said.