Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association (O16)

  1.  I write on behalf of our 3,500 members, many of whom are Sugar Beet producers in Norfolk. At the time of the Defra Consultation we wrote as an Association supporting the then Option for managed reform involving a stable market.

  2.  I should now like to put forward arguments to the Select Committee Inquiry in support of the industry preferred position for managed reform through a stable market.


    The UK beet industry is one of the most efficient in Europe, and is internationally competitive with global sugar industries.


    UK food manufacturers and consumer benefit from secure supplies produced to high food quality, social and environmental standards, including full product traceability and technical support.


    The industry supports over 20,000 jobs throughout the UK economy, many of which are in rural areas.


    The UK beet sugar industry does not produce surplus quota sugar and so does not contribute to the European surpluses exported onto the world market with export subsidies.


    The UK sugar market is unique, in that half of its requirements are imported from developing countries. No other large sugar producing country in the world is in this position, which arguably represents a "model case" for others to follow.


    Sugar is a natural and low cost ingredient for UK consumers. The average cost per person of purchasing sugar, in all products, is about six pence per day.


    About 15% of both operating and investment costs in the UK beet processing sector are attributable to meeting environmental and social standards.


    A detailed "environmental audit" of UK sugar production was recently carried out by Defra and the environmental NGOs. Its conclusions were:

      —  Sugar beet is beneficial for biodiversity and bird life.

      —  Substantial reduction in all forms of chemical inputs to the crop (pesticides, fertilisers etc) have been made in recent years: their overall application volume has been reduced by over 60% since 1982.

      —  Applications of insecticides to the crop have been reduced by over 95% since 1982.


    All co-products from the processing operation (eg animal feed, molasses, lime, soil and stone aggregate) are recovered and used in productive applications.

24 March 2004

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