Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by M C Mountain & Son Limited (O67)

  1.  My name is Mowbray Mountain, I am chairman of M C Mountain & Son Limited.

  2.  My company farms, growing 4,000 tonnes of sugar beet, contract lifts just under 3,000 acres of sugar beet and runs a haulage business, hauling approximately 150,000 tonnes per year.

  3.  My grandfather started growing beet in the 1940s, followed by my late father, then myself. Now my eldest son runs the farming operation and my second son runs the haulage. I organise the lifting. We employ just over 100 people. During the sugar beet season (which is from September to February/March depending on the season/yield etc) approximately 15-20 people are involved in driving vehicles, maintenance of vehicles, cleaning sugar beet, lifting it out of the ground and hauling it out of the field before onward movement to the factory.

  4.  In addition we load back sugar beet pellets to our own stores before onward movement to British Sugar's customers during the close season. We load boats at Kings Lynn and Boston Docks as and when required.

  5.  Our total involvement with the sugar industry is worth over £1million per year to our business.

  6.  If, through price reductions and quota cuts sugar beet became unprofitable, I would have to considerably downsize my business with the loss of between 15-20 employees. I would also NOT grow sugar beet. I think many of my lifting customers also wouldn't, thus I would not do this part of the business as it would not be economical. I would have to sell 25% of my haulage fleet ( selling 10 vehicles) with the resulting job losses.


  7.  Alone among the EU's Member States, the UK sugar market is shared roughly between beet sugar from the UK's domestic beet industry (c 1.1 million tonnes) and by cane sugar from both the ACP countries (in general former EU colonies) and the least developed countries who are the beneficiaries of the Everything but Arms Agreement.

  The UK market is roughly in balance between supply from domestic production and developing country imports, and national consumption.

  The UK beet sector does NOT produce surplus quota sugar exported onto the word market with export subsidies.

  Through the EU sugar regime system of producer levies, levies are collected from the UK beet industry which are used to fund the export quota surpluses from other EU member states.

  8.  The UK beet sector is efficient and environmentally friendly.

  The UK's beet industry is one of the most competitive in the EU.

  Sugar beet productivity is consistently amongst the highest in Europe.

  British Sugar is the European leader in terms of cost efficiency and technical innovation.

  c 15% of operating costs and 15-20% of capital expenditure in British Sugar are attributable to meeting the UK's environmental and social standards.

  The industry supports some 20,000, mainly rural jobs.

  Sugar beet growing contributes to sustainable development and biodiversity (especially bird life) and is one of the most valuable "break crops" in Britain.

  Customers benefit from stable supplies produced to high quality social and environmental standards.

  9.  We support reform of the European sugar sector, providing this is balanced and leads to a stable market, which enable efficient industries to operate and invest sustainably for the future.

1 April 2004

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