Memorandum submitted by Overbury Farms
Sugar beet is a very important crop for Overbury
Farms. It is vital to the rural economy and biodiversity. It employs
two rural members of staff and supports a more diverse bird and
wildlife population on the farm. Supporting a stable market with
quota and price control within the EU would balance supply with
demand and ensure we have a viable sugar industry for ACP, LDC
and EU countries.
1. I am employed as Farm Manager for Overbury
Farms, managing 1,369Ha on the Gloucestershire-Worcestershire
border. I am contracted to grow 1,800 tonnes of sugar beet destined
for British Sugars Allscott Factory in Shropshire. I currently
employ 6 full time farm workers with part time accounts assistance.
2. I am the Vice Chairman for Worcestershire
FWAG (Farm, Wildlife Advisory Group). The farm has completed a
LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) audit and we are fully
compliant with all components of the Voluntary Initiative.
3. Sugar beet has an important role to play
in the rotation here at Overbury. It is important to us for several
key reasons set out below:
3.1 It is a profitable break crop. We are
the custodians of the land and farms are the same as other business,
they need to remain profitable in order to maintain the existing
landscape and to invest for future generations. Re-investment
means increased productivity and greater efficiency to compete
at ever lowering prices. We are a competitive industry in balance
with supply and demand. Half of the demand for sugar is already
met from cane imports from the ACP and LDC and we do not dump
surpluses onto the global market.
3.2 A sugar beet enterprise is labour intensive.
Nationally over 20,000 jobs are involved with a high percentage
of those in rural areasit keeps two rural jobs open just
on my farm alone.
3.3 It is not just directly employed labour
that is involved in the sugar beet enterprise. Contractors harvest
the crop and employ mechanics to service their equipment. Hauliers
transport the crop and agronomists regularly field walk the crops.
Soil sampling technicians and the associated fertiliser and chemical
suppliers all have a vested interest in me making the crop profitable.
3.4 It provides a balance in landscape managementlate
ploughing allows an over-wintered stubble which provides cover
and weed seed feed for wild birds. After the crop is planted in
early March, the open seedbed provides good habitat for ground
nesting birds such as the Lapwing, a BAP Species.
3.5 A detailed environmental audit of UK
sugar beet production was recently carried out by Defra and the
environmental NGO's (2002) concluding that it is beneficial for
biodiversity and bird life. Volumetric inputs have been reduced
by 60% since 1982.
3.6 The sugar produced from my beet meets
the necessary food standard measures and traceability. We are
ACCS registered and can use the "Little Red Tractor"
logo on beet from this farm. These standards are not global and
therefore there is no guarantee of the quality of imported sugar.
4. It is important that the Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs Committee recommends Option 1 the "Stable
Market" assuming some price and quota reductions as recommended
by the UK's Sugar Industry, Oxfam, ACP and LDC, for the reasons
5. Options 2 would stop sugar production
in Europe eventually, and the benefits of the crop to us and our
environment would be lost. Price controls could not be maintained
and the price of sugar would slip to world market levels at which
we cannot compete; this has already been witnessed in the coffee
6. Option 3 will cause production of sugar
in the ACP, LDC and Europe to cease instantly.
7. I believe that we currently have a balanced
industry; for the environment, for supply and demand and for productivity
we are second to none. The EU has a problem with surpluses it
must export, why therefore should we suffer due to over supply
from other EU countries? Option 1, with allowance for quota to
be moved around member states, will migrate production to those
areas most suited for crop production and to those growers capable
and committed to responsible sugar production.
22 March 2004