HC Deb 23 November 1911 vol 31 cc1361-3

asked the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture (Ireland), whether he has any official information showing that a sum amounting to between £20,000,000 and £25,000,000 is paid every year for sugar by Great Britain and Ireland, and, if so, whether he can state how much of this sum is paid by the people of Ireland; whether he is aware that no sugar is produced in these islands and that consequently the entire price paid for sugar every year goes abroad; whether he has any official information showing that sugar-beet could be economically grown in British and Irish soil and sugar manufactured from the same, so that part, if not the whole, of the sum now annually paid to other countries for beet sugar might be kept at home, and that the growth of sugar-beet in certain countries on the Continent as a rotation crop has improved the fertility of the soil by from 20 per cent. to 80 per cent., has increased the demand for labour, and has led to a large increase in the number of cattle raised there; and will he say whether anyone connected with the Irish Department of Agriculture has any practical knowledge of the subject; and, if not, whether, in view of the importance of the question, he will try to have this defect remedied?


The value (exclusive of duty) of the imports of sugar into the United Kingdom in 1910 was nearly £23,800,000, of which about £1,800,000 represents the value of the imports into Ireland. No home-grown sugar is manufactured in Great Britain. Some English-grown beet was exported this year to Holland for manufacture. The Department's experiments have demonstrated that under certain conditions good crops of beet can be grown in Ireland, but whether beet can be economically grown is a question which can only be determined when commercial enterprises for the manufacture of sugar from beet or for the developments of a general market for the roots have been undertaken. The deeper and more thorough cultivation of the soil required for sugar beet improves the fertility of the soil and so increases the yield of the crops in the rotation, and the intensive cultivation requisite has in beet-growing countries led to an increased demand for labour, which is chiefly of a migratory character, and a larger number of cattle is kept in some of the districts. The hon. Member is referred to the considerations advanced in the first four paragraphs of the Department's Memorandum on Sugar Beet, issued in March, 1905, which still hold good and which, if taken into account, would save those interesting themselves in sugar-factory projects some trouble and expense in obtaining this information by other means. The Department's experiments, which have been continued again this year, have been formulated in the light of Continental practice and local conditions, and so far as the cultivation of the crop is concerned, will furnish the most useful class of data for Ireland. The Department have on their staff officers who are well qualified to advise farmers as to this crop.


Have the gentlemen connected with the Department practical knowledge of the cultivation of beet and the manufacture of beet sugar?


Yes, they have.


Will the hon. Gentleman co-operate with the British Board of Agriculture in this matter?


I should be very glad to co-operate with the British Board of Agriculture in any matter appertaining to my Department.


Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the experiments made in Great Britain have been very unsuccessful?


I am afraid that the experiment has not been successful.