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Sugar Industry

Volume 541: debated on Thursday 1 March 2012

10. What steps her Department is taking to protect production and jobs in the UK sugar industry. (97383)

We benefit from two sources of sugar supply in the UK: sugar beet, grown by farmers in this country and processed by British Sugar, and sugar cane, which is imported and refined by Tate & Lyle Sugars. The European Commission’s current management of the EU sugar market is threatening the continuing viability of the cane side of the industry, and we are urging the Commission to provide a balance of competition and success between the two sources.

The Secretary of State is absolutely right. The proposed job losses at Tate & Lyle are not due to a lack of demand for sugar or a lack of modernisation by the company; they are actually due to a ruthless protection of the European sugar beet industry, which is putting up our sugar prices and putting my constituents out of work. Can the Secretary of State assure me that she will stand up against the bureaucrats and the vested interests in the European Commission, and stand up for British industry?

I absolutely give the hon. Lady that assurance. I know that she is coming to see the Minister of State on Monday. Both he and I have strongly put the case that she has outlined. There are obvious employment consequences for London as a result of this threat to the viability of the cane side of the business. We believe that we need both sources of sugar in this country to flourish and be successful, and we believe there is room for both.

14. There is a shortage of sugar in Europe, yet the Silvertown refinery is forced to run at just 60% capacity, which seems ridiculous. Does the Secretary of State agree that it cannot be right to have a charge of €87 a tonne for extra beet quota, while the charge for each extra tonne of sugar cane is €270? (97388)

I am well aware that the right hon. Gentleman’s constituency is also affected by the threat to the viability of the cane refining side of the business. I can assure him absolutely that, from the first sight of these Commission proposals under common agricultural policy reform, and in the context of high world sugar prices, we have worked hard to ensure in our national interest that both sources of sugar have their place as part of our sugar economy. Ultimately, trade liberalisation is what should give us a level playing field and a fair opportunity for both types of sugar processing.