With sugar beet at the forefront of many tillage farmers’ minds at present, AgriLand looked across the water for some facts and figures.

Below are some estimated costs and gross margins for sugar beet crops in the UK on both heavy and light land. The input costs are estimates and are based on the high side in order to allow farmers to budget properly.

Fertiliser values will vary largely from farm to farm. Phosphorus and potassium levels were included at offtake values for average yields.

No allowance was made for the basic payment. The sugar beet gross margin includes a net margin for haulage (after allowance) and a contract harvesting cost. The costs do not include other machinery costs.

All costs and profits were expressed in £/t and converted to €/t on November 20 at a rate of £1=€1.13.

Variable costs

Variable costs for sugar beet crops in the UK, according to Prime Ag’s figures, are listed below.The only difference in input costs was herbicide, which cost significantly more on light land. Herbicide was £15.06/ha more expensive on light land.

Data source: Prime Ag (UK crop consultants)

Gross margin

Gross margin was much higher on heavy land and varied with achievable yield.

To put this data into context, a crop (from the same data source) of first winter wheat, yielding 10t/ha at £145/t had a gross margin of £934/ha, while a crop of winter barley on heavy land, yielding 9t/ha at £150/t had a gross margin of £825/ha.

The gross margins below are based on six different prices, all of which are listed and converted below.

Beet prices listed in £/t and €/t as of November 20 at a conversion rate of £1=€1.13:
  • £18.00/t = €20.27/t;
  • £19.00/t = €21.39/t;
  • £20.40/t = €22.97/t;
  • £21.00/t = €23.64/t;
  • £22.50/t = €25.33/t;
  • £23.00/t = €25.90/t.

Sugar beet yields in the UK are traditionally higher than here in Ireland, but the range in yields varies hugely with soil type and location. Therefore, the yields listed are spread over a large range of 55-90t/ha.

Gross margin on sugar beet on heavy land in the UK at different yields. Data Source: Prime Ag (UK crop consultants)

At a price of £18/t farmers producing 55t/ha on heavy land are estimated to be at a loss of £6/ha.

At all other yields and prices mentioned, farmers were in the green. On light land, the story was the same, but farmers were at a bigger loss of £21/ha at a yield of 55t/ha and a price of £18/t.

The prices of £20.40/t and £22.50/t indicate 2019 one-year and three-year contract prices with crown tare added back to the base price.

Gross margin on sugar beet on light land in the UK at different yields. Data source: Prime Ag (UK Crop Consultants)

Machinery costs

The figures above do not include machinery costs, but the data below will give an idea of these figures in an Irish context. The figures will vary from farm to farm.

Teagasc estimated the following machinery costs for fodder beet crops in its Crop Costs and Returns for 2018:
  • Plough, till and sow – €250/ha;
  • Spraying – €72/ha;
  • Fertiliser spreading – €36/ha;
  • Harvesting – €250/ha.