Sugar beet prices are expected to rise sharply in coming months following the 15 per cent loss of the British crop and a rising demand for commodities such as beet on the world market.

Much of the British sugar beet harvest was lost after sharp frosts in November and December caused it to rot in fields before it could be processed.

British Horse Feeds, which produces Speedi-Beet, has increased its price for a 20kg bag by 50p from £8.90 in December to £9.40 in January.

And the firm’s Simon Parker could not rule out the possibility of a £10 bag.

He said: “We have a contract for beet pulp supplies and prices have consistently been going up, not just because of the recent harsh weather, but also because of the rise in demand for all raw commodities.

“We anticipate we will have to pay more and this will have to be passed on, though we seek to minimise increases given our buying power.”

Dodson & Horrell, the manufacturer of Kwikbeet, has held prices at £9.50 per 20kg bag since the autumn.

Technical director Chris Gordon said: “We are not contemplating [price] increases at this stage and, if there is a shortfall in British beet, our suppliers will bring it in from other parts of Europe.

“What we cannot foresee, however, is the demand for raw materials on the world commodity market.”

The price of mollassed sugar beet, which is combined with nuts or coarse mix in horse feed, is about £7 per 20kg bag and it is possible the price of this raw product may be forced up.

Claire Williams of the British Equestrian Trade Association said it was keeping a watch on prices.

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (3 March, 2011)