Quota inequalities worry NFU
SUGAR production a hectare is the only basis for direct comparison. But growers margin (a hectare or a tonne) is of more interest to producers. Getting figures from countries which use varying bases for calculating margins is difficult, says the NFU.
There are political reasons why member states may not wish to provide such detail. However, both the NFU and BS are confident UK growers are well into the top half of the table in terms of grower profitability.
Matt Twidale, chairman of the NFUs sugar beet committee, shares the concern of many over the inequality of allocating national quotas across the EU and the recent agreement in Brussels rolling over the current regime until 2000/01.
Quota could be trimmed in future to bring the EU in line with its commitments under GATT to reduce subsidised exports by 21%. If cuts are necessary, they would not hit growers until the second half of the six-year period up to 2001, says NFU beet committee secretary Susan Haseldine.
"We now have to accept what has been agreed," says Mr Twidale. "But all our A and B quota is consumed at home, and if we get a cut we will have to tell people that we cannot supply them. For others who produce surplus sugar, it will just mean a cut in their subsidised exports – and we think thats unfair."
Quota size means UK beet provides only 49% of the nations sugar consumption. Larger quotas in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland mean those countries produce between 148% and 191% of domestic needs.
Mr Twidale believes UK growers can get closer to the top of the league table. As well as potential improvements in technical efficiency, other factors will influence their progress. The Inter-Professional Agreement – the contract between British Sugar and the NFU – is under negotiation for the first time since 1981. Changes are likely.
For producers, the most important issues centre on the basis for payment and in particular on beet purity. Growers in many other member states get premiums for producing "pure" beet.
The drive for better quality has some worrying angles, says Mr Twidale. He is anxious that the payments system should not squeeze out poorer performing growers. Instead, they should be encouraged to improve, he argues.
He is also concerned at the extension of campaigns. Monitoring will establish whether late delivery payments cover the truelong-term storage losses.
EU average sugar beet area per producer – ha