More warm and sunny weather is needed in top sugar beet European Union producers to boost the crop's sugar content, notably in France which suffered from particularly wet conditions this summer, producers said.
The final level of sugar production in the EU, the world's third largest sugar maker, is keenly watched as prices are hovering near four-year highs , buoyed by prospects of large global sugar deficit this season after a poor harvest in top producer Brazil.
"We had quite poor weather with a lot of water. Leaves developed well but the sugar content is very low," Timothe Masson, market analyst at French growers group CGB, said.
He expected France, traditionally the EU's top sugar producer, to see a 6% fall in yield compared to the 2015-2019 average, which, combined with a drop in sown area would lead to a sugar output of 4.2 million tonnes this year.
However, good weather could raise output to 4.5 million tonnes, in line with the five-year average, he said.
"That's a 300,000 difference. We would need twice more if we wanted to have a surplus at EU level," Masson said.
"If the good weather lasts, we could catch up the delay but we won't do a big yield either," he added.
Weather forecasts point to above average temperatures and little rain until at least 17 September in the main EU sugar beet producing areas.
France harvested an extremely poor beet crop in 2020 after pest attacks caused jaundice disease to ravage crops.
This year's outlook was better in Germany where the sugar beet harvest started this week and work is expected to get underway on a large scale in the next couple of weeks.
Germany's refined sugar production from beets in the 2021/22 season is forecast to rise to some 4.38 million tonnes from 4.10 million last season, German sugar industry association WVZ said.
German sugar beets benefited from a rainy summer this year, the association said.
But, like in France, plants now need sunshine to boost beet sugar content.
Beet harvesting in Poland, the EU's third largest sugar producer, has started and the country's refined sugar production is likely to rise to around 2.2 million tonnes from 1.98 million tonnes last season despite a slight fall in sowings, Rafal Strachota, director of beet grower's association KZPBC said.
'Low Sugar Content'
"Unfortunately, beets are characterised by a low sugar content. It is not as drastically low as in 2020, but everyone is expecting the weather to improve this parameter."
Britain's sugar beet crop could potentially rise slightly from last year's sub-par level despite a more than 10% drop in the planted area mainly due to growers switching to other crops after unprecedented yield losses last season caused by virus yellows, James Northen, head of sugar at the National Farmers Union, said.
"Overall, yields at this point in time appear to be below normal but improving. Crops are likely to need a good spell of sunny weather to build yields towards average," he said.