21 November 2000
EU sugar plan ‘to cost 23,000 jobs’
By Johann Tasker
THREATS to reduce Europes sugar quota would cost up to 23,000 jobs in rural Britain, former agriculture minister Gillian Shephard has claimed.
European Commission proposals to change the Sugar Regime will disadvantage cane and European Union beet producers, she will tell MPs.
Contrary to claims by European Commissioners, the proposals will fail to help the 48 least-advantaged countries in the world, said Mrs Shephard.
A planned 25-40% quota reduction over two years would be a massive blow to the beet industry, which provides 23,000 jobs in rural Britain, she added.
Farm incomes had fallen by 50% over the past four years in Norfolk – one of Britains main beet producing areas, said Mrs Shephard, Tory MP for South-West Norfolk.
“The beet industry, for producers, processors and hauliers, has been the cornerstone of agriculture in the Eastern counties for generations.”
“It accounts for nearly 10,000 jobs in Norfolk alone. Now is not the time to rush through proposals which will weaken still further our rural economy.”
Mrs Shephard will tell MPs on Tuesday (21 November) that Brussels is fast-tracking the planned quota reduction in a “profoundly undemocratic way”.
European commissioners are by-passing ministerial input from member states as well as the European Parliament, she will tell the House of Commons.
“British ministers who are accountable must stand up to the Commission, and defend their own sugar industries” before it is too late, she said.