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France’s Beet Plantings to Slump Despite Neonic Ban Lift

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 2/12/2021 Manisha Jha

(Bloomberg) -- Lifting the ban on use of neonicotinoids -- insecticides that harm bees but help control crop diseases -- has failed to encourage French beet growers to increase acreage. That will pressure output in the European Union’s top sugar producer a year after the beet yellows virus ravaged yields and pushed production to a two-decade low.

Stringent conditions attached to use of the neonics--including limits on planting certain alternative crops such as corn and rapeseed -- will prevent farmers from increasing beet acreage, according to Timothe Masson, an agronomist at French growers association CGB. The group forecasts the crop acreage will slump by as much as 10%, to a 12-year low of 380,000 hectares, in the 2021-22 season starting in October.

This compares with an acreage estimate of 400,000 hectares released by the French agriculture ministry earlier this week.

chart: Sweet Fall © Bloomberg Sweet Fall

“Growers face a tough choice between using neonics and having a lower output of alternative crops in coming years, or not using neonics and facing another hit to the beet crop from beet yellows virus like this year,” said Masson in an interview. “Given this situation, farmers can’t afford to risk a higher acreage especially if EU prices continue to stay low.”

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