Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Crop Protection Association (O76)

  The Crop Protection Association represents companies engaged in the manufacture, formulation and supply of plant protection products for agriculture, horticulture, home gardening, amenity and local authority use.

  Some of our member companies supply pesticide products for use on sugar beet crops in the UK. It has been drawn to our attention that the EUs proposal for reform on the sugar sector will impact the growing of sugar beet in the UK. The Crop Protection Association feels it is important that a thriving sugar production industry should continue in the UK and that the following points should be taken into account.

  1.  The UK sugar industry delivers the highest possible efficiency of production with a minimum impact on the environment. This safeguards supply, quality and environmental integrity for the UK consumer.

  2.  Sugar beet represents a break crop which easily matches wheat growing for grower return and has provided one of the few relatively stable sources of income to UK arable growers in the recent past.

  3.  Realistically it is only grown due to its profitability to the farmer so that if beet profitability were to decline then farmers would switch to other crops. Sugar beet is not an easy crop from a husbandry side and requires a high management input.

  4.  Any sector reform that does not allow reasonable return from beet growing will risk farmers voting with their feet and exiting the crop. The most likely replacement crop would be winter wheat.

  5.  Sugar beet represents one of very few non-combinable crops grown by UK farmers in the rotation and as such is an important source of habitat diversity.

  6.  It is also a spring sown crop which has further advantages as it provides open nesting sites for a number of ground dwelling birds. Ground is often left uncultivated in autumn providing vital feeding opportunities for over wintering birds.

  7.  Beet crops tend to support higher levels of broad-leaved weeds (which are harder to control in a broad leaf crop) than comparable grain crops, in turn supporting higher insect populations.

  8.  Sugar beet is a valuable weed-cleaning crop especially for the reduction of grass weeds. As growers are able to control problem weed grasses with many of the general herbicides used in beet it also has an important anti-resistance role to play. Control of grasses such as black-grass can frequently be achieved without using herbicides from under pressure chemistry thus helping to prevent the build up of resistance to these products.

2 April 2004

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