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Sugar Beet Crop, Huntingdonshire

Volume 437: debated on Monday 5 May 1947

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asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the Peterborough sugar beet factory was closed down this year before a considerable amount, namely, about 2 per cent. of the total crop of sugar beet, had been moved from farms in Huntingdonshire to the factory; what steps he is taking to enable farmers to recover losses incurred, through no fault of their own, by such sugar beet having been left on their farms; and whether he will take steps to ensure that such wastage does not occur again in the future.

No, Sir. At the time when the Peterborough factory closed, there was no appreciable amount of beet suitable and available for manufacture remaining undelivered. The small quantity still remaining on farms had been trapped either in or on the ground by frost and snow, and most of it would have been unfit for processing when the weather improved. The situation arising this year was created by the combination of a record beet crop and abnormal weather conditions. Notwithstanding these exceptional conditions, the great majority of farmers succeeded in complying with the contract terms and protecting their beet from frost damage. In the circumstances, no special steps on my part appear to be necessary.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that much of the sugar beet which was lost in this way was grown by farmers when it was not suited to their soil, that they, therefore, incurred losses which they were not willing to incur, and will he take steps to try to mitigate that hardship in future?

I have already informed the hon. Member that I do not see any need for taking special steps in this case, since so very little sugar beet was actually lost, and that was not due to bad arrangements but to the unfortunate state of the weather.