Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Andrew Houlden (O3)

  1.  I write as a chartered surveyor and land agent dealing with many farmers currently growing sugar beet upon their farm. I would like to see a stable market for my clients ensuring that sugar beet is a viable crop for them to grow in the future. I would like write to see the retention of the current annual contract system as, having being involved with the trading of contract tonnage during the trading period in 2001, when many farmers invested considerable sums of money into contract tonnage, it would now be very unfair to see their expenditure, on this particular asset, being taken away by the stroke of a pen.

  2.  I am also aware that the UK sugar beet industry is one of the most competitive in the EU, with growers producing high-yielding crops, which are processed by cost-efficient factories. The UK sugar industry is also important as its supports a lot of mainly rural jobs through the processing chain, be it farmers and their workers growing the crop, contractors involved in possibly drilling, harvesting and hauling the crop through to the British Sugar employees involved in all the aspects of the processing of beet into sugar.

  3.  Sugar beet also provides an important "break crop" in many arable farms rotations spreading workloads over the full year and providing numerous environmental benefits.

  4.  I further understand that there is currently a roughly equal balance between UK grown beet sugar and imported cane sugar and that this matches national consumption. It would seem strange to implement any change that upsets this balance. I therefore consider that the options for liberalisation or large price reductions are non starters as they will dramatically upset this balance. I believe that the only way forward is to promote a "stable market" by simplifying the current system and making small reductions in both quotas and prices. This in turn relies on supply controls being exercised in Europe on both production and imports.

17 March 2004

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