Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Askham Bryan College (O40)


  There is need to reform the sugar beet regime in the UK (para 1). The sugar beet industry is a vital sector in the UK economy, both from an economic and environmental perspective (para 2). The sugar beet enterprise is an integral part of the curriculum delivery at the College. It is a clear example of the food chain in practice (para 3). Closure of the sugar beet factory at York would have a significant impact on employment in the region (para 4). The sugar beet regime does need reform but it is vital that stability is retained in the market with full consideration given to economic, social and environmental impacts (para 5).


  We accept that there is need to reform a regime that has remained largely unaltered for many years. However, it is important to retain stability in the market and consequently we recommend that a modified version of Option 1 is adopted.


  We would point out the following facts with regards to sugar beet in the UK:

      —  UK is only 50% self-sufficient in sugar.

      —  UK does not contribute to EU surpluses.

      —  UK is near the top of EU rankings in terms of cost and efficiency.

      —  Industry supports 20,000 jobs in UK.

      —  Home production of sugar reduces food transport miles.

      —  Results of DEFRA environmental audit show that sugar beet is beneficial for biodiversity.

      —  Substantial reductions in chemical inputs in last two decades.


  As a College we make extensive use of the sugar beet crop in the curriculum. It is integral to the full range of courses, namely National Certificate in Agriculture, First Diploma in Agriculture, National Diploma in Agriculture, Foundation Degree in Agriculture, and Honours degree in Food, Production, Processing and Marketing. The sugar beet enterprise is a good example of the food chain from production through to finished product. We are ideally located for this, being only seven miles from the York factory which regularly takes student groups.


  It should also be pointed out that the demise of the sugar industry would have a particular impact in this area with the closure of a factory with some of the most modern facilities in Europe. It is understood that the York factory employs approximately 110 people plus 60 contractors and 40 seasonal workers. It services approximately 1,700 farms with over 100 hauliers involved in transport of beet from the farm to the factory. Although direct employment might appear low, it is understood that indirect employment equates to 11 people for every single person employed at the factory.

  Defra census data for June 2002 shows that 15% of farms in the Yorkshire region are classified as General Cropping. The greater majority of these farms have a sugar beet enterprise.


  The sugar beet regime does need reform but in such a way that there is stable market conditions in the UK, EU and beyond. It is vital that full consideration is given to the economic, social and environmental impacts of any reforms carried out in the sector.

30 March 2004

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