Memorandum submitted by Patrick Allen
If the Government's response to the Sugar Sector
reform is anything but the supporting of a stable market with
a managed reform, then it will produce some serious winners and
The winners will be:
Francebeing the only EU country that could
possible compete at present world prices, but who also produce
the biggest exportable surplus within the EU which is the cause
of the present WTO objections.
The losers will be:
The UK sugar industry and the 20,000 associated jobs.
The world environment due to the lose of the Amazon
rainforest as Brazil pushes up productionThe Brazilian
Congress is, even now, voting on a project that will reduce the
forest to 50% of its size, and what foragriculture.
The ACP and LDC who at present are allowed to sell
sugar into the EU market at the higher EU prices.
As a sugar beet producer, growing 60 acres on
my family farm of 480 acres, I would like to stress the importance
of the crop to the farms economic well being, the local employment
and the local environment.
1. Each year I invest approximately £450
per acre to grow 25 tonnes per acre of Sugar Beet which once processed
will produce four tonnes of sugar. This compares with an annual
investment of approximately £180 per acre for growing wheat.
Sugar Beet is not a cheap crop to grow. I would not be making
that investment, along with accepting the risks from weather and
diseases, unless there was the likelihood of a financial reward
for doing so. That £450 per acre investment will support
many other varied businesses.
2. During the past four years Sugar Beet
has been the financial back bone to this farm as cereal prices
have collapsed. Without the financial stability that Sugar Beet
has provided, I would certainly not have been able to continue
farming as an independent unit.
3. Without the financial stability that
sugar beet provides, I would be unable to continue to employ the
one full time worker I currently do. The crop, in conjunction
with three neighbouring farms, directly employs a one-man-band
haulier for six months of the beet campaign, a contractor with
a beet harvester and a further tractor and trailer plus driver
to haul the beet from the field to the concrete pad.
4. For the past two years I have participated
in the RSPB Volunteer & Farmer Alliance Scheme, where-by an
RSPB member carries out an in-depth survey of bird species present
on the farm, through the various seasons. Twenty-eight species
were recorded, of which four were red listed (birds of high conservation
concern) namely grey partridge, quail, skylark and yellow hammer.
I believe the farms good showing in this survey is primarily down
to the high level of spring cropping through sugar beet and the
spring barley that follows sugar beet. Indeed the RSPB in their
letter to me, referring particularly to the skylark, stress the
importance of such cropping, I quote "Winter cereals only
provide suitable habitat for them to rear one or two broods, so
inclusion of spring cereals or a break crop (other than oil seed
rape) will provide ideal nesting habitat." And of course
the 2,000+ Pink foot geese are most grateful for the sugar beet
tops on which they graze during December to February when there
is little other food available.
5. Seventy per cent of the UK's sugar production
is sold as industrial sugar for the manufacture of drinks, chocolate,
biscuits etc. A reduction in the farmgate price of sugar beet
will not lead to any benefits in lower priced products for the
general public. One only has to analyse the price of bread for
evidence. Ex farm prices for milling wheat has halved in value
since the early 1990s but the price of a loaf of bread has continued
to rise above inflation.
6. The emotional rhetoric, emanating from
some quarters, that a fully liberalised sugar sector, will in
some way, be a panacea for a free world in traded sugar, is simply
nonsense. It is a red herring, for certain countries, to be pointing
the finger of blame, for the low world price of sugar, at the
EU. The facts do not support such a notion. The world market in
sugar amounts to approximately 130 million tonnes; the EU produces
around 14 million tonnes of which 1.3 million tonnes is exported
from the EU onto that world market; Brazil alone exports some
12 million tonnes.
7. The UK sugar industry, and I, as a small
cog in that industry, fully accepts the need for reform. But what
is needed, above all else, is a stable market, where UK growers
can continue to provide a secure source of reliable, home grown
sugar, and continue to invest in the research and development
of the crop for the future. 20,000 related jobs and the environment
depends on it.
31 March 2004