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Sugar Beet at Risk: Polish Producers Say Green Deal Goals Too Strict

FOOD & AGRICULTURESugar Beet at Risk: Polish Producers Say Green Deal Goals Too Strict

Though sugar producers are aware of the climatic threats looming for us and future generations, they emphasize the need to consider the path to reaching these goals in a way that does not hurt crops. Hence, sugar producers are counting on a revision of the assumptions of the Green Deal. “Dramatically limiting the means of plant protection or fertilizers will not allow for the continued cultivation of sugar beet” – emphasizes Michal Gawryszczak, the director of the Sugar Producers Association in Poland.

The European Green Deal, a set of political initiatives originating from the European Commission, has raised considerable emotions among farmers. Its goal is to achieve climate neutrality on the Old Continent by 2050.

“The Green Deal presents sugar producers with challenges just like for other agricultural sectors; Europe must become climate-neutral by 2050. In our case, as well as other farmers and food industries, the ‘From Farm to Table’ strategy comes into play, which dictates that by 2050 we will have to reduce all plant protection means by 50%, fertilizers by 20%, and at least half of the crops must be organic” – says Michał Gawryszczak.

The Green Deal’s assumptions were first presented in the “European Green Deal” communication at the end of 2019. The European Commission has outlined 10 priorities in it. They predict a review of all regulations accounting for their possible impact on climate. The communication contained provisions relating to agriculture, biodiversity, and the creation of a circular economy amongst others.

Our respondent evaluates that the assumptions themselves are very sound considering the climate threats confronting the contemporary world. “The question is how to achieve these goals, because in our understanding such drastic limitation of plant protection means or fertilizers will no longer allow for the continued cultivation of sugar beets or other crops in Europe”.

Currently, a wave of farmer protests against the Green Deal is sweeping across the European Union, including Poland.

“I don’t know if the action farmers in the European Union take will influence the European Commission in any way. I hope the means to achieve the goal will be verified somehow, maybe it won’t be a 50% reduction of plant protection means, but maybe 25%,” says the director of the Sugar Producers Association.

Michał Gawryszczak emphasizes that each plant protection measure directly translates into yields. So with the same financial inputs, with the same labor inputs, farmers’ yields are diminishing, and at a certain point, this cultivation of crops ceases to be profitable. Consequently, the farmer either switches to other crops or gives up cultivating any crops altogether.

“All sugar producers, both Polish and European, are constantly striving to achieve climate neutrality, meaning not emitting CO2 gases in such a way that absorption equals emission. Over the last 30 years, European sugar producers have already reduced nearly 60% of CO2 emissions. It’s not hard to imagine that the final 40% reduction will be very difficult, but not impossible,” believes the expert.

According to sugar company declarations in the EU and Poland, by the end of this decade, they will aim to reduce the emission of these greenhouse gases by about 30%.

In the opinion of the Sugar Producers Association in Poland, the industry mainly needs administrative facilities or appropriate legislation. It is about allowing for easy, uninterrupted investing in solutions like biogas for instance.

“We strive to become independent of external energy sources and reduce the use of fossil fuels. Thus, most sugar producers currently focus on producing biogas from beet pulp. To make such energy production possible, appropriate regulations and administrative procedures are needed in our country,” points out Michał Gawryszczak.

In the 2023/2024 campaign in our country, 2,341,375 tons of sugar was produced – reports the Sugar Producers Association in Poland. This is a very good result as it exceeds by 30% the production from the record year of 2017/2018. The yields in the last campaign reached 63.86 tons per hectare, which is the best score in the last six years. In this case, sugar producers signed contracts with over 26,000 farmers for the cultivation and supply of sugar beets. They bought a total of 16,966,213 tons of beets from them, an unprecedented achievement.

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