A Norfolk MP has stood up for sugar beet farmers amid their long-running contract dispute with British Sugar.

Negotiations finally resumed this week after an angry stand-off which began when British Sugar made a price offer to its 2,300 beet growers - while active negotiations were still under way with industry representatives from the National Farmers' Union's sugar board (NFU Sugar).

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker posted on X, formerly Twitter, that he would "stick up for my farmers and sugar beet growers", adding that it was "not fair that British Sugar have bypassed the NFU" on negotiations.

He also raised the issue in parliament, where he asked: "Does the leader think it is right for British Sugar to bypass the NFU, the beet growers' sole representative in negotiations with the monopoly processor, while negotiations are ongoing, to get farmers to sign up to a contract which the majority of those farmers do not believe is in their best interests or reflects adequate return for the sugar market?"

In response, Penny Mordaunt, the leader of the House of Commons, said Mr Baker had been a "consistent champion" for the interests of farmers, adding: "I think he is right to encourage them to stand firm.

"I am pleased to see that NFU Sugar and British Sugar are resuming negotiations on next year's sugar beet price and I hope they can work together to agree a mutually acceptable deal as soon as possible for the benefit of both growers and processors."

British Sugar previously said its "competitive offer" was made to growers who had been calling for "the security of a contract" after months of talks had failed to reach an agreement. 

But NFU Sugar, which wants a "fairer" pricing structure to reflect high world sugar prices, said the unilateral offer was made "outside of the well-established process" - so it would not restart negotiations until it had been withdrawn.

Earlier this week British Sugar agreed to "temporarily pause" its contracting to allow both parties to get back around the negotiating table - sparking hopes of a resolution to the dispute.

British Sugar agriculture director Daniel Green wrote to growers, saying: "British Sugar and NFU Sugar have agreed that negotiations will recommence this week, aiming to agree a contract for next year as soon as possible."