A HAILSTORM has devastated more than 100 acres of sugar beet in the Fens near Littleport.

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Beet growers’ leader William Martin, who farms near Ely, recorded a total of 97mm rainfall early last Saturday evening about four miles further north at Black Horse Drove.

But the hail damage has been quite extraordinary, he said.

“It stripped the leaves completely. I’ve never seen anything like it. From a distance the field just looks a funny colour but as you get closer, it is still green but a dull pale green,” said Mr Martin, who is chairman of the NFU’s sugar board.

“All that is left are the stalks. All the veins of the leaves are effectively sitting there because the leaves have been stripped off.”

Mr Martin said that about 40 acres of his beet had been trashed by the hailstorm and a crop of dwarf beans in an adjoining field has also been written off.

“It looked a shotgun had been fired at close range,” he added.

His neighbour, Malcolm Rains, of Ten Mile Bank, and his nephew also had a similar acreage of beet hailed. While Mr Martin had 40mm at his home in Littleport, Mr Rains recorded a total of 97mm plus a further 2.9mm at Black Horse Drove.

“What is also quite remarkable is that I’ve got 100 acres of wheat next to it, which appears to be untouched. It is still standing, didn’t fall over and hasn’t knocked all the grain out of the ears,” said Mr Martin.

British Sugar has announced that the latest beet campaign will start on Thursday, September 20.

Colm McKay, British Sugar’s agriculture director said: “Having discussed dates with the NFU and gaining feedback from our growers, the campaign start dates have been chosen to strike a balance between the crop benefiting from recently improved weather conditions and deliveries to our customers”.

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