France sugar beet production will drop by 30% — Cristal Union

France's second-largest sugar producer Cristal Union expects its sugar beet harvest to drop by as much as 30% this year because of crop disease and drought, the cooperative group's chairman said.

It is reported by Successful Farming.

Jaundice spread by aphids has caused severe damage to sugar beet fields in parts of France, the European Union's largest sugar producer, while summer drought has added to crop stress.

Annual production runs have been delayed at some factories to give crops in the worst-affected areas a chance to recoup some yield.

However, Olivier de Bohan told that he expected the volume of sugar beet processed by Cristal Union to drop by between 20% and 30% from last year, a steeper drop than the 10-15% decline it had projected at the start of harvesting in September.

France's farm ministry last month reduced its forecast for the national sugar beet crop by 1.7 million tonnes to 30.5 million tonnes, 20% below last year's output.

The French government has responded by proposing legislation to allow sugar beet growers to use pesticides that had previously been banned to protect honeybees.

De Bohan said that Cristal Union's outlook for core profit in the current financial year has also been hit by the coronavirus crisis, with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation now forecast at 150 million euros ($175.3 million), down from a previous projection of up to 200 million euros.

A shift to production of alcohol for disinfectants during the health crisis had offset two thirds of lost sales in ethanol biofuel, he said.

The group expects to return to a net profit, he added, having registered a loss last year after costs linked to factory closures following a slump in sugar prices.