Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Germain's Technology Group—UK (O56)

  As Chief Executive Office of Germain's Technology Group, I am writing in response to the invitation from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee to submit evidence concerning the options for the forthcoming enquiry on the reform of the EU Sugar Regime.

  1.1  Germain's Technology Group (GTG) is a world-leading seed coating and seed enhancement company. Our principal business resides in the UK, where we employ 75 people. Some 75% of this business is involved in sugar beet, a crop with which Germain's has been closely associated since the UK Company was established in 1966.

  1.2  Germain's contribution to the UK sugar beet industry has been to provide high technology seed coating and treatments, which have enabled growers to maximise the potential of the seed sown. Germain's are the only company in the UK providing these products and have made a considerable investment in process engineering, quality control systems and R&D over the years, which has resulted in a reputation for leading edge technology in sugar beet seed coating and enhancement.

  1.3  Seed pelleting technology was initially developed as a means of improving plantability by precise depth and space placing of the seed, which is essential to final yield in root crops such as sugar beet. Subsequently, seed-applied fungicides and insecticides were introduced for seed and seedling protection. The precise application of these seed-applied crop protection chemicals as carried out by Germain's is important not only for seed safety, but also to ensure specific targeting against pests or diseases. This process is supported not only by state of the art application systems, but also by monitoring through quality assurance and control procedures accredited under ISO 9001.

  1.4  Germain's apply these pesticides at a single site, where both the process and recycling of bulk chemical containers are carefully and correctly controlled in accordance with current legislation. This negates the need for growers to handle these materials on farm, thus eliminating packaging disposal and reducing environmental impact. The introduction of imidacloprid (Gaucho) to the UK market as a seed treatment for sugar beet amply illustrates this point. Germain's role in applying this pesticide has not only enabled precise targeting of the pesticide, as opposed to either broadcast use of granules or sprays, but has also resulted in a significant reduction in pesticide usage on the crop.

  1.5  More recently, Germain's have developed a large-volume seed priming process which is a major innovation in the sugar beet crop. This has been the result of considerable research and development and associated quality control procedures and is unique to Germain's. This treatment is now used on 70% of the UK crop and its contribution to both establishing the crop and to significantly improving ultimate yield is now recognised by UK growers, British Sugar, The National Farmers' Union and research institutions.

  1.6  Whilst we accept there will be changes to the European Sugar Regime, we believe this should be done in a balanced way leading to a stable market to ensure that efficient industries, such as Germain's, can operate and invest for a sustainable future. The consequence of dramatic and immediate change would seriously impact on Germain's ability to address the future challenges of the UK needs for sugar beet seed enhancement technology. Moreover, it would be economically devastating for the Company and for all those employed in the business.

Paul Ayres

Chief Executive

1 April 2004

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