Jaundice spread by aphids has caused severe damage to sugar beet fields in parts of France.
The summer drought added to the losses in what is the European Union’s largest sugar producer.
France’s farm ministry said in October that the national sugar beet crop could be down by almost two million tonnes, to 30.5 million tonnes – some 20 per cent below last year’s output.
However, Cristal Union, France’s second-largest sugar producer, is even more downbeat – suggesting that the production of sugar beet could be 30 per cent lower year on year.
In an interview with farming newspaper Le Betteravier, the cooperative group’s chairman Olivier de Bohan said production runs have been delayed at some factories to give crops a chance to recoup.
Mr de Bohan said the co-op’s prediction of a 10-15 per cent drop, issued in September, had been radically revised to between 20-30 per cent decrease.
Last month French lawmakers, reacting to the decrease in sugar beet production, approved a draft bill allowing growers to use pesticides that are banned to protect honeybees.
The move was condemned by green groups and directly went against pledges made by French President Emmanuel Macron to apply the ban on neonicotinoid pesticides across the board.
Agriculture Minister Julien De-
normandie told the National Assembly during heated debates on the draft bill that it was designed to protect France’s self-sufficiency in sugar and was not anti-environmental.
To avoid seeing farmers turn away from the crop, the government proposed that they would be allowed to use neonicotinoids on sugar beet seeds until July 1, 2023, easing a ban in place since 2018.