Warning to sugar beet growers regarding duty-free sugar imports

3:35 PM December 23, 2021

Farmers have warned that the government’s decision to extend a duty-free quota on imported cane sugar could trigger the “permanent decline” of East Anglia’s sugar beet industry.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) introduced a zero-tariff Autonomous Tariff Quota (ATQ) for 260,000 tonnes of raw sugar entering the UK from January 2021 – and has now announced it will continue at the same volume until December 2024.

Its analysis says this “should not have a negative impact on UK beet sugar producers” or force them to cut prices to compete with quota imports.

But the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) says it will open the doors to raw sugar grown all over the world, often produced with state aid or using chemicals and plant breeding technologies that are illegal in this country. .

Fenland beet grower Michael Sly, chairman of the NFU sugar board, warned that the three-year extension, “coupled with full sugar liberalization in the UK-Australia trade deal.” , could lead to the permanent decline of the UK sugar beet industry.

Most of the producers in the sector are in East Anglia, supplying three of British Sugar’s four factories in Cantley and Wissington in Norfolk, and Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.

Mr Sly said: ‘It is shocking that the government has decided to extend this quota, which clearly undermines efficient UK producers.

“It’s incredibly disturbing that the government said the decision was based on evidence, but none of this has been released.

“The government’s claim that the quota will have no impact on UK producers is clearly flawed, which is evident in the government’s own policy which says that the quota” allows the importation of food products which have been treated with pesticides containing active substances which have not been approved for this use at national level ”.

“The UK is one of the most efficient sugar producers in the world, supporting thousands of jobs in the east of England. The government’s trade policy must allow us to compete on an equal footing with producers elsewhere.

A DIT spokesperson said the government “carefully considered a series of factors when making this decision.”

“The highly competitive UK sugar industry is one of the best in the world and our analysis indicates that this duty-free quota is not expected to have a negative impact on UK sugar beet growers,” they said.

“The proposed extension will support the refining capacity of raw cane sugar in the UK and promote consumer choice and competition in the UK sugar market.

“All imported food must meet strict UK food standards, overseen by the Food Standards Agency. “

Rachel J. Bradford