asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many cases are known to him where the contract acreage of suger beet allocated to a farm exceeds one quarter of the arable acreage of the farm.
The British Sugar Corporation has agreed to supply as much of this information as it can but it will take some time as there are over 30,000 sugar beet growers. I will write to my hon. Friend as soon as possible.
I appreciate the difficulty of obtaining this information fully in a short time. Will my hon. Friend keep in mind that this is a guaranteed price crop and that it is bad husbandry to grow sugar beet more than once in four years on any land? Will he try to ensure that the British Sugar Corporation does not issue contracts where a high proportion of sugar beet is grown on farms, and thus make the contract acreage available? Is he aware that there are many small growers in my district and elsewhere who would like to participate in one of those contracts?
As my hon. Friend knows, the Minister does not allocate contracts. The British Sugar Corporation makes its contracts with farmers within certain totals. The hon. Gentleman also knows that for many small farmers the most economic way of growing sugar beet is for them to plant a large part of their acreage in one year and then plant other crops for the requisite number of years until the growing of sugar beet is again permissible in order to avoid eel worm infestation; so that it is a different rotation on a small farm.