Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by PJ Young & Sons (O59)


   Option 1 is the only option that will ensure the future of sugar production in the UK. The sugar beet crop is of fundamental importance to our farm and many others in the West Midlands. A managed stable market is to the benefit of the industry and consumers.

  1.  PJ Young & Sons is a family farming partnership based in the Shifnal area of East Shropshire where we farm 200 ha, all arable. Our soil type is predominately loamy sand making it especially suitable for the cultivation of root crops, cereals can not match the yields and margins of heavier land farms. Potatoes and sugar beet are the mainstay of our farming system. Potato production is subject to a notoriously cyclical market, whilst sugar beet produces a reliable margin that has been absolutely fundamental in maintaining the viability of our business over the years. We have been growing sugar beet to supply the Allscott factory since it opened. We employ three full time staff.

  2.  On our farm we are committed to the preservation and enhancement of the environment. We have had a Countryside Stewardship agreement for 10 years and have taken advantage of the much wider scope offered in the Arable Stewardship pilot to encompass the whole farm for the last five years. We have always believed sugar beet to be an environmentally beneficial crop with its open growth habit encouraging many ground nesting birds. The contribution to biodiversity of the crop was confirmed in Defra's report in 2002.

  3.  I believe that Options 2 and 3 would lead to catastrophic price reductions for sugar beet, causing the demise of the industry, both at farm and processor level. It would also undermine the industries of those developing countries that this country is committed to assisting; those at present allowed to supply to the UK half of our sugar requirement, at a stable EU price. The world market price is akin to a market of last resort for surplus production. This price is not sustainable for any producers in the world, and will lead to a few countries driving the market after existing producers have been priced out of production.

  4.  Option 1 would allow a phased price reduction that the industry could accept. We have seen in effect a 25% reduction due to the value of the £ since the mid 1990s, which we have managed to adjust to by rigorously controlling costs and improving efficiency. The stable market albeit at a lower level than present would encourage the already efficient UK industry to improve and develop to the benefit of consumers, producers whilst retaining support for developing countries.

1 April 2004

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