Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Cambridgeshire County Council (O21)

  By way of background, Cambridgeshire County Council has the largest Smallholdings Estate in England and Wales of approximately 13,600 hectares with some 296 tenant farmers and a first step for many new entrants onto the farming ladder. Myself and colleagues manage that Estate: the Estate has a Charter Mark Award. It is estimated that about half of our tenants have grown sugar beet and approximately one-third currently grow the crop. Sugar beet is vital to the survival of many of these tenant farmers and in recent years with falling cereal prices (2003 has been generally a welcome relief), many would be unviable without growing sugar beet and in turn this would make the Estate unsustainable.

  In summary, like the NFU and British Sugar, I would support Option 1 because although it would mean a reduction in quota and prices, our producers being efficient could cope.

  Either Option 2 or Option 3 would result in an unstable European market with unsustainably low prices. Most developing countries would not survive under Options 2 or 3 and the value of their exports to Europe would be substantially reduced. I do not support these options. However, I recognise that review of the European Sugar Sector is needed to enable a sustainable European Industry to continue in the long term. The UK beet industry is efficient and innovative so is well placed to adapt to change.

  In considering the three options it must be remembered:

    —  the UK beet sugar industry is the leading supplier of sugar to the UK market providing half of the country's requirements;

    —  supports over 20,000 jobs throughout the UK economy;

    —  the UK beet sugar industry does not produce surplus quota sugar and so does not contribute to European surpluses exported onto the world market; and

    —  sugar beet is beneficial for biodiversity and birdlife.

  The UK British Sugar industry accepts that the sector should be reformed and supports this process provided it is done in a carefully managed way which results in a stable European market which allows efficient industries to survive: Option 1 is the only realistic option which would achieve this.

Christopher Burton

Senior Farms Officer

25 March 2004

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