Memorandum submitted by the English Sugar
Beet Seed Company Ltd (O71)
English Sugar Beet Seed Company employs up to
20 people involved in variety trials, seed multiplication and
marketing sugar beet seed in the UK.
1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
This Company strongly supports Option 1 of the
EU proposals for reform of the sugar regime with price levels
to allow domestic and developing countries to invest for a sustainable
future. The UK is in balance between supply and demand and does
not contribute to surplus quota sugar. The current low world market
prices are created by surpluses from many domestic markets being
sold very cheaply and do not relate to cost of production or prices
realised in those domestic markets, eg Australia.
The UK beet sugar industry has consistently
produced our national quota for over 20 years in an ever more
environmentally friendly manner. With around 50% of the UK sugar
requirements produced here, we have an excellent degree of security
against shipping and international problems. Sugar is a basic
ingredient in a multitude of food products, drinks and confectionary.
Any interruption of supply such as the recent dock strike in Brazil,
a very low cost sugar producer, would be catastrophic for the
UK produced beet sugar has full traceability
and according to a recent Defra "environmental audit"
(a) beneficial for biodiversity and bird
(b) substantial reductions in pesticides
and fertilizer inputs have been made; and
(c) insecticide inputs have been reduced
by over 92% since 1982.
Historically if the price of UK grown sugar
beet is reduced leading to lower wholesale sugar prices, this
benefit has not reached consumers and no indication has been given
that this will be the case in future. Therefore, if Option 2 or
3 were adopted, there would be great disruption in the sugar supply
chain and considerable loss of jobs without any obvious benefit
to anyone. It has to be remembered there is no guarantee that
the present world surplus sugar prices will continue ad infinitum
and the present regime gives good stability in price and supply.
This Company conducts observations and analyses
on eight to 10,000 variety plots every year in order to select
lines suitable for the UK. Particular emphasis is on disease resistance
where success would reduce still further pesticide inputs into
the UK sugar beet crop. Rust (Uromyces betae) fungal leaf spot
is often widespread in the UK but relatively rare in other beet
growing areas. Already 15-20% of sales is invested into research
and development and clearly this level could not be maintained
if the UK industry was substantially reduced as would be certain
if Options 2 or 3 were introduced. Breeding work specifically
for the UK would be reduced, consequently the competitiveness
of varieties used here would deteriorate.
An excellent example of breeding success is
the introduction by this Company of the variety BALLERINA resistant
to Rhizomania (Necrotic Yellow Vein Virus) a potentially devastating
soil borne disease which can halve yields. Beet is now grown successfully
on infected soils without recourse to any chemical control whatsoever.
Both nematode and yellowing viral disease tolerant varieties are
already in National List trials.
This progress leading to further reductions
in pesticide use cannot be maintained without a strong profitable
Sugar Beet is spring sown, therefore cereal
stubble can be left in the autumn and open fallow ground left
over winteran attractive habitat for many birds. The crop
does not usually give full ground cover until the end of June,
a fact particularly appreciated by the abundance of sky larks
in beet fields. If the area of sugar beet was reduced, this land
would almost invariably be cropped with winter cereals giving
an even greater expanse of winter ground cover.
There has been a very significant reduction
in the amount of fertilizer, pesticide and insecticide use on
the UK sugar beet crop. The crop has full traceability of inputs.
In a world of diminishing fossil fuels, it does
not seem sensible to increase the "sugar mile", ie distance
between factory and customer from about 130 miles to anywhere
between 4,000 and 12,000 miles for most sugar import sources.
On a positive note, a successful UK beet industry
could also be used to produce bio-ethanol to replace imported
Almost all the co-products of UK beet sugar
manufacture, such as animal feed, molasses, lime, etc are used
in productive applications.
1 April 2004