Memorandum submitted by the Borough Council
of King's Lynn & West Norfolk (O33)
1. The sugar beet industry is very important
to the Borough due to the presence of British Sugar's principal
processing factory at Wissington.
2. Whilst we all accept the need for reform
of the current regime, it is imperative that changes are made
in a controlled, measured and sustainable way, to ensure that
there is a stable operational environment for growers and processors
in the UK, EU, and just as importantly, in the developing countries.
3. The paper "Review of the European
Sugar Sectorthe Position of the UK Beet Sugar Industry"
produced jointly by British Sugar and the NFU in October 2003
clearly states the importance and efficiency of the UK sugar beet
industry, but also highlights it's vulnerability to wholesale
changes in the regime which might be brought in without opportunities
for the industry to adapt.
4. I would also highlight the following
areas of importance:
4.1 The sugar beet industry plays a vital
role in supporting rural economies not just in our Borough, but
across much of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.
For example, around 20% of the cultivated land area in Norfolk
is used for beet growing.
4.2 The three factories at Wissington, Cantley
and Bury St Edmunds process almost 70% of the UK beet harvest.
Due to this close concentration, local economies and employment
structures would suffer severely if the UK industry was adversely
hit by any review.
4.3 Given the difficulties already being
experienced by the agricultural sector, any measures which resulted
in the sudden deterioration in viability of the sugar beet industry
will have a grave impact on rural economies and rural jobs.
4.4 The Wissington factory alone has a huge
and beneficial impact on our local economy, with direct payments
to growers in the region of £80 million per annum. With the
addition of salaries, local suppliers and contractors, this figure
exceeds £100 million.
5. The Borough Council supports the representations
of British Sugar and the NFU that the best outcome of the current
review will be a stable UK and EU market which will allow sustainable
production and processing, in the developing countries as well
as the EU. This will give all parties the confidence to invest
in the longer-term.
6. Any changes which might lead to a volatile
or unpredictable market would be counterproductive to producers
and processors in both the developing countries and the EU. The
resultant volatility, reduced profitability, lack of confidence
and investment will damage all economies involved.
7. Consequently, the Borough Council urges
both the UK Government and the European Council of Ministers to
adopt Option 1 as the most appropriate method of ensuring that
the sector is reformed in a carefully managed way which will result
in a stable European market which will support efficient industries
in both the developing countries and the EU, and which will avoid
any volatile market movements which could be detrimental to all
29 March 2004