Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Joseph Camm Farms (O17)


  The following is a submission to the Committee on Reform of the Sugar Sector by a long established UK grower of Sugar Beet in the East Midlands area. The crop is the mainstay in the farm's cropping rotation and the grower sees a stable market arrangement as the only way forward in the reform process.


    I am Ruth Girdham, a director of Joseph Camm Farms Ltd. We are a family farming business based in North Nottinghamshire. Sugar Beet has been an important part of our rotation for at least three generations. We currently grow 150 hectares annually, producing around 8,000 tonnes for processing at Newark sugar factory.


    We are only able to grow Sugar Beet if there is a stable market. This must apply to sugar growers throughout the world, as there is a considerable investment required to grow it successfully. Sugar Beet has always had a stable market and the UK position is unique in that it already imports sugar from the ACP countries and the LDCs. The UK market is in perfect balance, with no excess production.


    We realise that there has to be market reform but hope that this can be achieved with consideration to Sugar Beet growers. Many EU agricultural reforms seem to involve making systems ever more complex. We would appreciate simplification of the regime, while accepting that there may be a need for a reduction in both quotas and prices.


Our farm is just 20 miles away from Newark sugar factory, meaning far less food miles than many other commodities. This must surely, in these days of environmental awareness, be an important factor for the Government to consider. Delivery takes place with our own transport, driven by our own staff. Without the crop, it is highly likely that we would find that it would be uneconomic to run the lorry and thus make a redundancy.


We have always supported UK agricultural machinery manufacturers with our choice of harvester and at present use a Garford machine. The fieldwork employs three to four members of staff for four months of the year, including drilling time. They are all staff who live in the rural community and who would find it almost impossible to find alternative work.


Sugar Beet is the main break-crop on our farm and indeed on most farms in North Nottinghamshire. Break crops are also vital on sand land farms for the encouragement of biodiversity, in particular wild birds. Being country people, we value and appreciate all wildlife.


Over the last 15 years, our yields and thus our efficiency have improved from 44 tonnes per hectare to over 60 tonnes per hectare. This also produces environmental improvement, as the crop area can be reduced and fuel savings achieved. This efficiency improvement in UK Sugar Beet growing goes hand in hand with the overall efficiency of the UK Sugar Beet sector.

  This is not a benefit that should be lost to an unregulated market.

24 March 2004

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