Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Anne Preston MBE—Chairman Prestons of Potto (O1)

  I am Chairman of a group of companies in the logistics industry employing over 360 staff in several locations in UK.

  British Sugar has been a very valued customer over a large number of years. We carry sugar products from factories in York, Newark and East Anglia and operate the British Sugar Warehouse at York. I also sit on the Board of the Road Haulage Association, Chair Freight Business Yorkshire and Humberside and sit on the newly formed Board Skills For Logistics, all of which allows me to take a very broad view of the industry as a whole.

  My family have been farmers for generations and at one time I worked for the Ministry of Agriculture. Whilst I acknowledge, as so indeed do British Sugar that reform of the industry, is necessary and justified it is imperative that we retain a stable market which enables efficient industries to operate and invest sustainably for the future.

  I believe your Committee should take into account the following points:

    —  The position of the UK industry as being in balance between supply and demand.

    —  Changes should be phased in gradually to allow the sector to adjust (about 10 years).

    —  Modified Option 1 offers the best overall deal for stakeholders in the industry.

    —  The importance of sugar beet crops to the environment ie birdlife.

    —  The UK beet arm of British Sugar is the European leader in costs and efficiency.

    —  Alone among the member states the UK sugar market is roughly equal between beet sugar from the UK's domestic industry and imported cane sugar.

    —  Prices on world markets are low and below the cost of production and therefore should not be used as a bench mark.

    —  Brazil has increased its exports to the world market 10 fold to over 14 million tonnes since 1990 compared with EU net exports which have remained stable at 3 million tonnes. Brazil has been cross subsidised by their ethanol industry and against a background of a devaluation in currency.

    —  Taking everything into account it is certain that any changes due to the reform will have anything other than a negligible effect on world sugar prices.

  Over 20,000 people in mainly rural areas are employed in the UK sugar industry. Over 1,200 road hauliers are involved in carrying sugar beet and finished product. Unless the modified option one is adopted many of these people will go out of business.

  Over the years both farming and manufacturing have seen a steep incline in UK. It would be tragic if we allowed this to happen to our sugar industry.

16 March 2004

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2004
Prepared 12 July 2004