Farmer Diaries (UK): Sugar Beet And Maize Struggle For Water

Insight Focus

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  • We’ll look at what they’re up to on the farm, hear their concerns, and celebrate their triumphs.

What Have You Been Up To, Hugh?

So the storm has come, in terms of harvest and, as I write, we have some 300 acres of wheat left to harvest. All other combinable crops are done. To put this into context, traditionally, we start wheat harvest on 6th August, plus/minus a couple of days. Wheat yields will therefore be down because we have lost some 14 days of grain fill.


And weddings.


What Stage Are Your Crops At?

Maize is tasselling and not enjoying the heat and lack of water. Sugar beet is miserable. Basis 01-Jan to 31-Aug we will have had just 54% of normal rainfall and we have had significantly more heat than normal. Weather modelling suggests the humidity in our sugar beet fields is some 5-10% below 2020, when Cercospora (and yellow virus) decimated the crop.

We are preparing land for planting oil seed rape, but it is very unlikely we will plant this crop due to soil dryness.



What’s Your Biggest Concern?


I had a bad day a couple of weeks ago which was made worse by the very act of turning on BBC Radio 4’s “Woman’s Hour”. One of the articles was an attack on the, roughly, 2,500 sugar beet growers by a part owner of Neil’s Yard Cosmetics. The lady in question was opposed to use of neo-nics in the UK and she wants them banned.

To support her case, she mentioned that the cosmetic industry was financially more important than the food industry, in the UK.

NYC’s website points out that they support 50m bees in Africa and buy honey from South America. To put that into context, we have 10m bees on our farm, the cosmetic industry does not buy our honey and if we lose neo-nics the risk of sugar beet crop failure is greatly increased. And we kill, regrettably, many more things with the remaining tools we have available to us.

Bringing things up to date, my local MP is likely to be our next prime minister. She has promised to make UK farming world beating. Brexit reform of agriculture has seen the subsidy reduced by half and will be completely gone within 6 years (this is the politically easy bit) whilst the promised replacement is but a small dot on the horizon – the farmer was assured that support would be financially the same only directed in different directions.

English agriculture is, in particular, likely to be driven towards bankruptcy. I’m not sure my local MP knows which way into the ground a sugar beet seed should be put.



Ambitions for this Year?

Still trying to understand sugar and many other things, so I can avoid the threats of my local MP.


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Ben Seed

Ben joined Czarnikow’s analysis team in 2016 on a year long internship before returning to the University of Bath to complete an Economics Degree. Since re-joining in August 2018, Ben has led the data insights team in expanding the range and quality of data available internally and to clients through Czapp. Ben spent 3 months in Czarnikow’s Singapore and Bangkok offices to expand his knowledge of the region and help roll out the latest data processes. He is now also responsible for the Sugar Market View published each week on Czapp.

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