Making the case for sugar beet in Scotland

The Sugar Beet Working Group (SBWG) is an informal, cross-sectoral group working towards the reintroduction of sugar beet to Scotland. This will support sustainable fuel and chemicals production using biotechnology and help deliver Scotland’s net-zero targets.

Originally a Rural Innovation Support Service (RISS), the Sugar Beet Working Group (SBWG) continued as a standalone group after August 2020, with key individuals from across agriculture, innovation and academia, all keen to see a sugar beet supply chain established in Scotland.

The group has met monthly since March 2020 and includes representatives from SRUC, IBioIC, JHI, SAOS, East of Scotland Growers, NFUS, farmers, contractors and the agricultural supply trade.

A supply chain to reduce Scotland's carbon footprint

Collectively, the SBWG view sugar beet as an opportunity for farmers to take ownership and be rewarded for setting up a sugar beet supply chain that will reduce Scotland’s carbon footprint. All too often, farmers are left out of sustainability solutions, and the SBWG wants to change this and ensure equity in this nascent supply chain.

The group has made substantial progress in the past twelve months. There have been successful crop demos and trials at farm locations on the East coast of Scotland, and significant research undertaken that supports the carbon capture and storage element of growing sugar beet.

Watch: presentation by the group at The Innovation Game online event, March 15, 2021

This led to the production of a one page briefing document titled ‘Growing the circular economy crop of the future: Sugar Beet’, making the case for sugar beet in Scotland, accounting for the benefits to agriculture, manufacturing, consumers and to the fight against climate change.

Next steps for the group

The SBWG is currently exploring the benefits of setting up a farmer cooperative or co-operatives in progressing this project, and have recently been awarded funding to undertake a detailed Viability Study.

This study will build on the groundwork undertaken by NNFCC (The National Non Food Crops Centre) for a Scottish Enterprise report – Opportunities for Re-stablishing Sugar Beet Production and Processing in Scotland.

>Read more about the Scottish Sugar Beet RISS group

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© Soil Association 2021. Charity registered in England and Wales no 206862, in Scotland no SC039168. Terms