HC Deb 18 February 1963 vol 672 cc10-1
18. Mr. Hilton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the estimated tonnage of sugar beet lost because of the recent severe wintry conditions; and what was the subsequent loss in revenue to farmers.

Mr. Soames

It is estimated that about 350,000 tons of sugar beet are still in the ground. The British Sugar Corporation is taking samples to see whether there is sufficient of it suitable for processing to justify opening a factory.

Mr. Hilton

Is the Minister aware that many thousands of tons of sugar beet are still in the ground in Norfolk, including my constituency, and that the loss to small farmers, in particular, who have not been able to get the beet into the factories for processing is extremely serious and will make all the difference between profit and loss in their present year's accounts? Is the Minister considering taking this matter into account in this year's Price Review?

Mr. Soames

The figure which I have given represents about 6 per cent. of the total crop. The position is not the same for all farmers and I am advised that by far the majority arrange, in their own interests, to lift all their beet by the end of December and store it in roadside clamps pending delivery to the factory. Sugar beet is grown under contract and, as the hon. Member knows, there is no compensation for loss of crop.

Mr. Fell

Will my right hon. Friend consider making representations to some of the sugar beet factories in the areas most affected—particularly Cantley, in Norfolk—to keep open as long as they can in case the sugar beet can be got in?

Mr. Soames

If it is an economic operation—that is, if the sugar beet can be moved and the sugar content is sufficient—the British Sugar Corporation would reopen a factory.