Memorandum submitted by Nigel Stangroom
As a farmer under the age of 40 I would like
to voice my concerns over the proposed Sugar Sector Reform.
The British Sugar Industry was encouraged by
the Government in 1936, from nothing to secure sugar supplies
for its own use. Now it appears after all this time our own Government
could put the first nail into the coffin of the British Sugar
Our Industry has successfully co-existed in
trade with less developed countries, who are very concerned about
their future as sugar producers if the Sugar Sector Reform goes
the wrong way. Free trade is important but when it comes to food
production reasonable support allows for steady supply at reasonable
prices. Unlike oil production the tap cannot just be turned on
and off as the markets move about.
When it comes down to price for primary products
a 50% price variation does not always filter down to the final
consumer because of all the "on" costs.
As farmers we have been involved extensively
in the apple industry but due to overseas competition and increasing
labour costs on a predominately manual crop, we have slashed our
production of fruit crops and moved towards machinery orientated
With sugar beet, the crop lends itself to mechanisation
and as a result of plant breeding, chemical technology and improved
machinery, yields are still increasing and harvesting costs remain
I can understand disposing of an industry that
was inefficient but the British Sugar Industry should be cherished
for what it has achieved in recent times especially when total
food miles for British Sugar is 130 miles compared to Cane Sugar
at between 4,000 and 12,000 miles.
The environment would also suffer with the demise
of the sugar industry. Sugar Beet is a spring sown crop which
means there are many cereal stubbles prior to sugar beet drilling.
This provides winter havens and feed for all forms of wildlife,
not least 100,000 pink footed geese that feed on our North Norfolk
stubbles. Hares, partridges, skylarks and others flourish on this
crop as it provides bare land through to late May. What a great
loss this would be to our green and pleasant land.
The Sugar beet industry also employs a full
time staff through the winter harvesting and haulage period, if
this crop were to disappear, people in agriculture would become
even more isolated. Often the first point of contact and conversation
between farmers, after an intense harvest period, is their sugar
Without sensationalising the issue, this became
clear to me as a young farmer friend in his late 30s committed
suicide last week. It is a lonely business.
24 March 2004