Memorandum submitted by Kerr Farms (O47)
Kerr Farms are farmers and sugar beet growers
in East Anglia.
The Sugar Beet crop is grown on 285 ha (700
acres) of the land that we farm.
Sugar Beet is a spring-sown crop providing a
non-chemical means of controlling weeds eg blackgrass and wild
On farm efficiency is continually improving
with R & D funded by the industry itself. Our crops come within
Crop Assurance protocols and the Sugar Beet crop makes a major
contribution to our sustainable farming ambitions and the local
The crop has a high "social" and economic
value in our case binding together farmers working in co-operation
together for over 30 years. The Sugar Beet crop is a symbol of
good husbandry, efficient use of farm resources, provides employment
and income to the rural economy.
Any action that precipitated a drastic reduction
in on farm receipts for Sugar Beet faster than new efficiency
factors can be implemented, would be a disaster for the East Anglian
rural economy and those people and businesses with which we trade.
1. The Sugar Beet crop has a special role
in our farm crop rotation. This enables us to comply with environmental
recommendations to leave "over wintered" stubbles from
the preceding cereal crop harvest, providing a beneficial habitat
and winter food supply for wild birds as advocated by both Defra
and wildbird conservation organisations. Without the availability
of spring sown sugar Beet crop these stubbles would be sown in
the autumn to winter cereals and oilseeds.
2. Developments in Sugar Beet husbandry
funded by the industry itself have led to improved productivity,
lower use of chemical inputs and reduction in the use of inorganic
The proposed Options 2 and 3 would result in
a lack of funds to maintain the progress being made in improving
efficiency and on farm environmental conditions would surely decline.
3. In recent years our farms have come under
the scope of independent audited assurance schemes. We combine
the growing of Sugar Beet and compliance with both Countryside
Stewardship and Environmental Sensitive Area membership on the
same holdings. Sugar Beet comes within the ambit of crop assurance.
These farms are also part of the Unilever Sustainable
Farming Initiative surrounding the production of Birds Eye Peas
which in conjunction with Sugar Beet provide an essential break
from continuous monoculture of winter cropping.
4. All our operations on the Sugar Beet
crop are carried out through various co-operative ventures, sharing
investment, staff and risk. This co-operation commenced in 1972
(32 years ago) with the formation of a Partnership, Deben Valley
Beet Growers. Today through contract farming arrangements and
co-operation with adjoining Beet Harvesting Groups and formal
and informal co-operation on the Sugar Beet crop involves over
20 growers with service ranging from sowing through to delivery
of the crop to British Sugar for processing.
These activities involve round the year work
at critical times for both farmers and their staff. Any deterioration
in the already slim growers margins would seriously effect the
viability of many farms including our own and those that we co-operate
5. The Sugar Beet crop is unique in the
workload effect on the mixed arable farm. The harvesting season
neatly follows the grain harvest and establishment of autumn sown
crops enabling a smooth (in most seasons) utilisation of people
and machinery which in turn spreads overhead costs and depreciation.
Since the introduction of Sugar Beet to East
Anglia it has become a symbol of good husbandry.
6. The Assurance Schemes mentioned in Para
3 together with the close co-operation between farmers and the
sole processor British Sugar, ensure a farm to consumer integrated
Food Chain as advocated in the Curry Report, which is a shining
example of best practice in British Agriculture. This provides
safe high quality products to both individual family consumers
and the UK Food and Drinks industry, which is both traceable and
sourced near to ultimate consumption. British produced sugar is
not exposed to world travel, high food mileage or contamination.
31 March 2004