Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by J A & P E Wright (O14)

  We are sugar beet growers and hauliers farming near Thetford, Norfolk. This crop is extremely important to us for several reasons. It gives us an annual income of approximately £200,000 and is the largest cash crop contribution to our business.

  1.  We grow 6,500 tonnes of sugar beet on our farm and it is produced on 150 hectares of land. This crop is the biggest contributor to the arable department and it is a very important break crop in the rotation. We employ four men to do all the arable work, if this crop was lost to us we would have to reduce our staff by 50%, many would say that does not matter but in the long run the country needs people to farm and look after the countryside. It is very difficult finding staff to work on farms at present and the number of agricultural students is very low.

  2.  We run a small haulage operation employing three HGV drivers which would have to be closed down if we did not have the sugarbeet to haul during the Autumn and Winter.

  3.  DEFRA recently publicised some information which indicated sugarbeet growing was good for the environment for various reasons we would like to confirm this on our farm. We have stone curlews which are encouraged to nest on the sugar beet fields because the crop is spring sown. We also have skylarks and lapwings which find the fields ideal for nesting in. We are in the Breckland ESA and we are encouraged to attract these birds to our beet fields.

  4.  It seems crazy to us that this government/EU is considering procuring all its sugar from places like Brazil which will entail vast expense in transport. The UK is now in the top three of EU sugar producing countries which is no mean achievement by farmers and British Sugar, is it right that this industry is closed down and we are left to the vagaries of world trade and politics for such an important commodity.

  5.  We only produce 50% of our own sugar and the rest of it comes from ACP countries. We are the only country in Europe to be in such a position. There are other countries who contribute far more to the overproduction of sugar in the EU and do not help the poorer countries.

  6.  We hope you will give the utmost consideration to the EU sugar industry and because of the above reasons we hope you will opt for Option 1 to secure a viable beet industry a farm assured source of sugar, which is environmentally friendly.

24 March 2004

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