New reforms made to UK sugar beet seed model

New changes to the UK sugar beet seed model have been announced by the sector
New changes to the UK sugar beet seed model have been announced by the sector

NFU Sugar and British Sugar have announced reforms to the UK sugar beet seed model, with an aim to give growers more choice and flexibility.

The changes are also set to address recurring issues with growers’ access to seed, while preserving the most effective parts of the existing model.

The proposals will be rolled out from 2025 following feedback from growers about availability of seed, as well as changes to how British Sugar markets seed.

As part of the changes, growers and seed breeders will be encouraged 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.

To supply British Sugar, growers will now be permitted to grow a wider choice of varieties which is expected to allow earlier uptake of new genetics and increase choice for growers.

Another change will see the UK Seed Account – the route through which British Sugar sells seed – modify 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.

Finally, changes to the Recommended List trials have been set in motion, which will be moving to evaluating finished products, rather than genetics alone.

The intention being that the revised recommended list will represent what growers actually buy, tested in a way it will actually be grown.

Andrew Fletcher, joint seed lead on the NFU Sugar board: “We’ve listened to feedback from growers about what did and didn’t work for them.

"[We] 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 at British Sugar, added that the processor was 'delighted' to have worked on this 'transformational change'.

He said: “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.

“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.”