Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Turner's Transport Ltd (O18)

  I am writing to you with regard to the proposed reforms to the European Union sugar regime as set out in the Commission's papers entitled "Reforming the European Union's Sugar Policy".


  I am responding, as its General Manager, on behalf of Turner's Transport Ltd, one of the largest independently owned transport companies in the UK.

  As a business, our company, which employs in excess of 1,400 people in the UK, is heavily involved in the transport of sugar on behalf of the majority of stakeholders in the UK sugar market.

  Having considered the options set out in the Commission's Working Paper I believe that the appropriate conclusion for the future is for the adoption of balanced reform (Option 1 in the EU Paper); that being the only option that will provide a stable market that I believe is essential for the future.

The reasons for my conclusion are as follows:

  1.  Any substantive price reductions or market globalisation will not, in practice, provide the perceived benefits of reduced consumer prices and "open" markets. Past experience in alternative commodities has shown that such practices in fact serve to allow a small number of international traders and global low cost producers to wholly dominate specific markets with no consumer benefits.

  2.  Such price reductions and/or globalisation will for the reasons stated also serve to exclude from the EU market suppliers from the world's poorest countries who will be unable to compete with the world's least-cost producers. These least-developed countries (LDCs), in view of their fragile economies, require for the present and foreseeable future stable markets that can allow their economies to develop in a structured manner.

  3.  I believe, personally, that it is our moral responsibility as members of the world's most developed and richest nations to support, when appropriate, the population of the LDCs through such trading links as can be provided. I believe that support for this position is demonstrated by the Commission's EBA initiative, the benefits of which will be wholly negated in the event of the introduction of the alternative options. This conclusion is further underlined by the response to the Commission from the LDC Brussels Sugar Group, dated 19 November 2003,that calls for an orderly market structure for sugar in line with the current EU regime.

  4.  I believe that the UK sugar industry is extremely efficient and sets the very highest standards in terms of food safety, traceability and overall quality.

  5.  The UK industry also provides the very highest environmental standards and strives continually to improve. I believe that is unlikely in the extreme that such standards would either be sought for or achieved by the world's least-cost producing countries such as Brazil or Thailand.

  6.  As a transport company we are involved in the transport and distribution of both sugar beet to the various process locations and the delivery of bulk and bagged sugar for a number of UK sugar companies to the various retail and industrial users within the UK. We are also involved in the delivery to the UK ports of sugar exports. As such I believe we are in a unique position to comment on the overall logistics efficiency of the UK sugar market. It is our view that the UK sugar industry is one of the most efficient industries that we are involved with which sets the very highest standards throughout and strives continually for greater efficiency. The industry provides the highest standards of Health and Safety for all involved in the industry and it is important that such standards are not compromised by structural changes to the EU sugar industry.

  7.  On behalf of my company, Turner's Transport, I am very concerned at the politically damaging effect on our business, and on the haulage industry throughout the country, of reform in the sugar sector, unless it is carefully balanced and managed in the way I am suggesting.

  8.  It is my understanding the UK sugar market is in balance in regard to supply and demand without producing expensive quota surpluses. In addition, within the EU, the UK market is unique in already sourcing around half of the current UK production from cane sugar imported from developing countries. These long-standing and valuable trading relationships would be immediately threatened in the event of the introduction of an uncontrolled and unstable EU market with significant negative social and economic damage to the ACP countries involved.

CONCLUSIONWith regard to the EU proposals on Sugar Regime Review my conclusion is that it is imperative that a stable and structured market is maintained within the EU for sugar and for those reasons I believe that the maintenance of a stable market (Option 1 in the EU Papers) should be adopted.

  I believe that the adoption of the alternative options would provide significant social and economic disadvantages to both the EU members and the LDC/ACPs.

  I understand that this view is supported by the overwhelming majority of responses to the Defra Consultation on this subject.

  However, it is acknowledged that it is entirely appropriate for a review of the current EU sugar regime. I believe that such changes decided upon should be limited to the reduction of quotas and it should be noted that since the UK domestic sugar industry does not produce any such surpluses such quota reductions should not be directed at the UK.

24 March 2004

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