Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Transport & General Workers Union (Newark) (O19)


  My name is Floyd Major and I am the Branch Secretary of the Transport & General Workers Union, Branch 8/10-465, Newark area. This Branch is a composite Branch which means we cover more than one industry, therefore we are made up of members from Scottage Courage, Currys/Dixons, British Waterways etc, etc. I also represent "British Sugar UK" and "British Sugar Silver Spoon", there are also Branch members who work for "Turners" who transport Sugar from British Sugar Newark and members who are "farm workers", on farms that grow Sugar Beet. It is with deep concern for these members jobs that I am responding to this Select Committee Inquiry on Sugar Reform

  I would also bring to your attention that I am a member of the TGWU Food Drink and Tobacco National Committee and I am the Senior Shop Steward at British Sugar UK Newark Factory.


  When I responded to the Defra consultation on reform of the European sugar sector there where three options to respond to and it is with these options in mind that I respond to this Select Committee. I therefore presume that the three options are:

    Option 1—some reduction in quotas and prices;

    Option 2—price reductions;

    Option 3—full liberalisation of the market.

  It is with the above in mind that I wish to submit that as Branch Secretary to the above members that Branch 8/10-465 supports option one, which means some reduction in quotas and prices but it is better than the unplanned madness of the world market.

  I will clarify the reasons behind this response in the next paragraph.


  It is reported that the sugar industry supports over 20,000 jobs throughout the UK economy but with our links with the IUF, the International Union of Foodworkers, I wish to broaden our response and look at the sugar industry at European/World levels. The big concern for the sugar industry in the EU is that as a result of a full liberalization of the market, production might be cut in close to 75%, while the European Beet Growers Association (CIBE) have reported that job losses would be significant among the estimated 500,000 jobs dependent on the current common market organisation (CMO) sugar regime. At EU level at the moment there are 275,000 beet farmers. In addition to the European sugar companies, we have suppliers like the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, and the least development countries (LDCs) benefiting from the "Everything But Arms" initiative. Any discussions must take the ACP and LDCs into account, and with discussions that I have had with Trade Unionist from these countries they would wish to see Option 1 supported

  Our Branch does not support Options 2 and 3 (price reductions and full liberalisation of the market) for the reason that I believe a price reduction will eventually lead to a free market which would mean the end of the sugar industry in the EU and the lost of thousands of jobs. Brazil would flood the European market, The ACPs and LDCs producers cannot compete with Brazil and so their sugar industry would be in danger. If we take a closer look at the Brazilian sugar industry, a report by Reuters of 23 October, last year, gives a brief account of investments in infrastructure for transportation and shipping of sugar and alcohol (ethanol). In the next 10 years, the report quotes Datagro, a local analyst firm, Brazilian sugar exports are estimated to grow from 15 million tonnes of sugar to 21 million tonnes per year. In the early 1970s, Brazil exported slightly over 1 million tonnes per year. But this investment is not passed down to the workers, the minimum monthly wage for the cane rural workers in the Brazilian Northeast is only 260 Brazilian reais (USD 90.90)

  For examples on what could happen to the European Sugar Industry in a full liberalization of the market, I wish to look at the Coffee and Banana industries. Over-production has pushed coffee prices down to an all-time low and many farmers now earn less for their crop than it cost to grow. Twenty-five million coffee growers face ruin and yet Kraft, Nestle, Sara Lee and Procter & Gamble' continue to rake in the profits. It is the same in the banana industry, For every pound in Britain spent on conventional bananas, the retailer receives up to 40 pence, according to a article in the Observer, Tesco makes £1 million profit a week on bananas alone. In order to meet the demand for cheap bananas, banana companies are pursuing a "race to the bottom" relocating their production and sourcing to countries with the lowest labour and environmental standards. Wages and working conditions on plantations across Latin America and West Africa are being eroded and small farmers in the Caribbean are struggling to stay in business. The full liberalisation of the market or free market does not benefit workers, it only puts more profit in the pockets of big business whose policy is not to help the poor workers of the world but to exploit them. If the full liberalisation or free market was the answer to improve the lives of millions of workers in poor countries why hasn't it happened by now. The problem we are faced with is global capitalism that puts profit before people.


  To summarise, Branch 8/10-465 calls upon this Select Committee to support Option 1, a reduction in quotas and price for the above reasons. We would also point out that the UK sugar industry does not export sugar onto the world market, the UK market is balanced between supply and demand and in fact British Sugar only supplies half of the UK sugar, the other 50% is imported from ACPs countries Any price reductions in sugar will only benefit large companies and their profits, not the consumer. Environmental, health and safety and food safety standards are extremely high at British Sugar, for example insecticides on the beet crop have been reduced by more than 95% and there is a good relationship between management and the trade unions.

24 March 2004

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2004
Prepared 12 July 2004