Italian farm research body Istituto di Servizi per il Mercato Agricolo Alimentare (ISMEA) has estimated that the county's 2003 sugar beet area will fall nine per cent from 242,000 last year to 220,000 hectares this year.
In northern Italy, where most of Italy's sugar beets are grown, production has fallen 8.7 per cent to 146,000 hectares from 160,000 in 2002.
A spokesman for the Bologna-based Italian Sugar Beet Association (ANB) told Reuters that many farmers had decided not to plant sugar beet this year because of disappointing incomes in 2002. Maize has been planted in many northern farms instead.
The ANB's membership produces some 60 per cent of the sugar beet grown in Italy.
In central Italy, the total sugar beet area has so far declined 23 per cent this year to 33,000 hectares. This compares to 43,000 hectares of beet production last year.
In the south however, the total area planted with sugar beet has actually risen to 41,000 hectares. This is an increase from 39,000 hectares in 2002.
Italy is due to begin harvesting its sugar beet crop in the south next month, and begin harvesting crops in the central and northern regions in early August.