Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Graham Hunter Blair (O31)


  It is essential that this country keeps a profitable, stable and competitive Sugarbeet industry. We accept there has to be change but the only option I can support as a Grower is "Option 1" the reasons outlined in the paragraphs below. If either of the other two options is adopted it would lead to the end of beet growing in this country and we then could be held to ransom by the world supply and demand for sugar as is already happening in the world grain market.

  1.  I am a tenant farmer on the Duchy of Cornwall Estate in Herefordshire farming a mixed arable and livestock farm of 500 acres in the Wye Valley. Sugarbeet is a vital part of the farms rotation as we are able to utilize the whole crop. I am a member of FWAG and have a signed agreement with English Nature as we live in an area of ANOB.

  2.  I can only support "Option 1" as the best option for the continuation for sugarbeet growing in the West Midlands. If we lose this option the crop will no longer be viable to grow. This has a knock on effect that we supply the largest area of the population outside of London. This means that sugar will have to travel long distances to its customers with increased transport causing ever more pollution.

  3.  We only supply 50% of the sugar required for use in this country, thus allowing 50% sugar to be imported much in the form of cane sugar from third world countries. We in the UK do not add to the sugar surplus in the EU.

  4.  We as growers are amongst the most efficient in Europe. Sugarbeet is beneficial for biodiversity and all forms of wild life. It allows us a crop rotation rather than monoculture. The various inputs in the form of fertilizers and pesticides are yearly being reduced. It also allows us to have a farm cropping rotation which in turn benefits the land and countryside. All the by-products of the process are recovered and recycled, such as lime, beetpulp for animal feed etc.

  5.  The industry supports 20,000 jobs in the rural areas of the UK. On my farm alone we help the rural economy by employing contactors, advisers and many other ancillary rural industries. Sugar is also a natural and low cost ingredient for UK consumers.

  6.  We are able to give a secure and steady supply to our consumers and manufacturers. In this very unstable world we live it is vital the UK has a stable supply of sugar. Also as oil supplies start to run out we can use Sugarbeet to produce fuel. If we have no sugarbeet industry we shall be at the mercy of others, as we have already seen when the OPEC countries dramatically reduce its production.

  7.  If either "Option 2 or Option 3" were adopted it would lead to the end of Sugarbeet growing in the UK. The knock on effect it would be to destroy the sugar industry in ACP Countries which supply up to 50% of the UK market.


  Hopefully sense will prevail in the EU. It is vital that the EU goes for Option 1: the Stable Market and all it implies leading to a secure supply of sugar within the EU. The quickest way for a Government national or otherwise to fall, is a shortage of any food or fuel and that includes sugar. In the uncertain world we live in it is vital that the EU has a secure and stable supply of food for its many consumers.

26 March 2004

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