September 7, 2017 / 3:46 PM / in 2 months

EU set for big sugar beet crop as EU drops quotas

PARIS, Sept 7 (Reuters) - The European Union is set for a hefty sugar beet crop this year, following beneficial weather and a significant rise in area as producers prepared for the end of EU quotas.

The higher output from Europe will contribute to an expected global sugar surplus in the 2017/18 season, a prospect that has weighed on prices in recent months.

The beet harvest has just kicked off in several EU member states, including in top producers France and Germany where plantings are expected to increase by 20 percent, in line with an expected rise across the bloc, growers said.

Farmers have increased production ahead of a radical liberalisation of the EU sugar market from Sept. 30, with farmers free to grow as much as they want and refiners able to sell sugar globally after decades of strict output quotas and export limits.

“Yields are good and it looks like this will be the best season since 2011,” the head of French sugar beet growers’ group CGB Pierre-Emmanuel Bois said.

The average sugar beet yield for the French 2017 harvest was expected to be 91.8 tonnes per hectare, 4.5 tonnes above the average of the past five years after favourable crop conditions throughout the season, he said.

Combined with an estimated area of 480,000 hectares, the 2017 crop would be around 44 million tonnes, up from 34 million harvested in 2016.

The French sugar yield for the 2017 crop was expected to be 14.4 tonnes per hectare, 0.8 tonnes above the five-year average, Bois said.

German sugar beet harvesting has just begun and this season’s production should be completed in January, Guenter Tissen, head of Germany’s sugar industry association WVZ, said.

The WVZ estimates Germany will harvest about 31.48 million tonnes of beet against 24.8 million tonnes last season. Beet sugar content is initially estimated at 17.78 percent, unchanged on the year.

Production of refined sugar this season should increase by 23 percent on the year to 4.98 million tonnes if harvesting is not disrupted by bad weather, he said.

In Poland, farmers expanded plantings by about 27,000 hectares ahead of EU deregulation, sowing about 230,000 hectares for harvesting this autumn, said Rafal Strachota, director of Polish sugar beet growers’ association KZPBC.

Refined sugar production in 2017/18 should rise to about 2.2 million tonnes from 2.08 million tonnes last season, he said.

Sugar harvesting started very early in Poland around Aug. 29, he said.

“The sugar content is so far very low, below 16 percent,” Strachota said.

The outlook in Britain was also good.

“We are positive about this year’s crop, with indications to date that it is progressing very well,” said Colm McKay, agriculture director at British Sugar, adding that prospects were for an above average crop. (Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris, Michael Hogan in Hamburg and Ana Ionova in London; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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