NFU sugar representatives are stepping up their lobbying campaign in a bid to get better compensation for growers following recent sugar reform in Brussels.
“Twelve months ago we hoped we were at the end of the process,”said William Martin, NFU sugar board vice chairman. “Sadly, the EU reform package has not worked, only taking 2m tonnes of sugar out of the system, rather than 6m. Brussels had hoped the less efficient would take the money on offer, but not enough have gone.”
To encourage more growers to quit, the commission had changed the rules, allowing growers as well as processors to surrender quota. “They are effectively being offered £30/t to stop growing,” said Mr Martin. “With grain prices where they are, and sugar beet at £20/t, a lot of people are thinking hard.”
But access to the scheme was limited to 10% of national quota, and Mr Martin feared this would restrict much-needed reduction in less efficient areas of the EU.
“If they are trying to get people to stop growing, why are they restricting it geographically? The commission must stop being wet – if more growers want to go, we want to see them gone.”
Mr Martin also criticised the first-come, first-served basis of the scheme. “Each grower should have the chance to surrender some quota.”
The £30/t scheme was being extended to growers who had surrendered quota in the past two years, Mr Martin added. But while Irish and Italian growers hit by factory closures qualified, those forced out by the closure of Allscott and York who had sold their quota for a few pounds a tonne would get nothing.
“Clearly this is really unfair,” said Mr Martin. “Upward of 1000 growers have been left stranded. We shall be lobbying DEFRA, the European Beet Growers Union, the commission and MEPs – we are determined to get things changed. But it is going to be really difficult. No other growers in Europe are in the same position.”
Efficient sugar producers are being hampered by new EU sugar reform rules, says the NFU.