The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Sugar branch has announced reforms to the UK sugar beet seed model to give growers more choice and flexibility.

The reforms, made in collaboration with British Sugar, also aim to 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;
  • 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;
  • 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 is 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.

‘Fit for purpose’

Joint seed lead on the NFU Sugar board, Andrew Fletcher, 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.”

Head of agriculture – supply chain at British Sugar, Nick Morris, 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.