Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by C H Williamson (O65)


  1.1  My family has been growing sugar beet ever since the industry was established in the UK, and I currently have a quota for 3,300 tonnes with British Sugar, and have recently entered a contract farming agreement which includes a further 1,500 tonnes, all to the Allscott Factory

  1.2  Sugar Beet is the most important enterprise on my farm, and has been for many years. Without it the business would not have been sustainable in its present form. We would not have been able to maintain a labour force of four employees, nor could we have afforded to carry out environmental improvements, such as tree and hedge planting, or devote as much land as we have to Stewardship Schemes.

  1.3  Many hauliers and contractors in this area rely equally heavily on sugar beet to maintain a viable business.

  1.4  I believe that farming sugar beet sympathetically has greatly enhanced the environmental improvements that have resulted from our Countryside Stewardship Scheme. It is certainly a great benefit to biodiversity, especially bird life. I have been cooperating with British Sugar to assess the environmental benefits of different headland management techniques in sugar beet fields, with encouraging results.

  1.5  I do, however, accept that reform of the sugar regime is inevitable and that the status quo is not an option. I believe it is my responsibility, along with everyone involved in the industry, to convince the UK Government of the importance of the sugar beet industry and to persuade them to negotiate a review of the Sugar Regime that will ensure its future.


  2.1  I am familiar with the EU's three Policy Options for Sugar and would ask the Committee Enquiry to consider the following points.

    (a)  Any new arrangements should be as simple as possible.

    (b)  Production quotas should be made flexible so that, in conjunction with a Community restructuring mechanism, production can be moved to more efficient areas, while the overall EU production can be reduced to take account of eternal pressures.

    (c)  Compensation should be paid to sugar beet growers in line with CAP reform measures in other sectors.

    (d)  It should be recognised that the UK produces only 50% of its annual sugar consumption, and with imports from ACP countries the industry is in balance between demand and supply.

    (e)  Any changes should be brought in gradually to give the industry time to adjust.

  I broadly support Option 1 with some modification, as above, and I believe this has the support of the whole industry.

1 April 2004

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