Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Hirst Farms Limited (O8)

  As a grower of sugar beet in East Norfolk I would like to make the following submission to the Efra committee as it considers the reform of the EU Sugar Regime.


  Sugar beet is a profitable spring crop that provides good environmental benefits both to wildlife and the countryside in general. It provides local sustainable jobs and is creating profit that leads to tax.

  The benefits to LDCs and ACPs is there already and any significant change in the regime will only lead to benefits to one or two South American states where huge environmental damage is and will occur, whilst causing economic and environmental damage to those countries already benefiting from the existing regime.

  1.  I grow about 50ha of sugar beet per year in a rotation that includes cereals,vining peas, potatoes and field vegetables. Sugar beet on this farm is one that at present is profitable and is underpinning the small farm profit that we make. This profitability is important because it enables us to support many local businesses in the purchase and maintenance of machinery, purchase of crop inputs and also paying general taxes that support other areas of public expenditure.

  2.  The sugar beet crop provides a diverse range of habitats for a range of bird and animal species. It provides ideal nesting sites for a range of ground nesting birds such as skylarks and grey partridge, both of which we are encouraging on the farm as part of our Countryside Stewardship Scheme. The crop also allows retention of stubbles through the autumn and winter that allow feeding areas for wildlife. If I was not growing sugar beet then it is likely I would crop winter cereals instead which do not provide the same feeding opportunities.

  3.  The sugar industry in the UK is highly efficient and provides a local source of raw material to a range of companies that require sugar in the food production. It is environmentally sustainable as regards food miles and maintenance of the rural countryside. The environmental controls that are placed on the farming industry can be easily policed whereas if sugar sourced from other parts of the world and notably South America all types of environmental damage can occur over which we have no control.

  4.  The support given to LDC through existing arrangements is successful in allowing access to a protected market. If the industry becomes unrestricted as regards imported crop then the economic and environmental effects the ACP countries could be devastating. I do not see what advantage there is to any other country apart from one or two South American states that changing the existing growing arrangements will have apart from negative ones.

  Many thanks for the opportunity to raise a few points and I hope that the committee supports a modified Option 1 approach.

19 March 2004

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