HC Deb 04 June 1992 vol 208 c930
2. Mr. Enright

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to curb the production of sugar beet.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. David Curry)

The United Kingdom will be seeking a thorough going reform of the sugar regime which is due to be completed by July next year.

Mr. Enright

I am grateful to the Minister. He will be aware that the substantial overproduction of sugar beet in the European Community has led to a dreadful situation for world prices and thus for sugar cane producers, who are among the poorest countries in the world. Will he therefore, when he takes over the presidency in July, make sure that the MacSharry proposals, which quite disgracefully ignored the African, Caribbean and Pacific protocol on sugar cane, take account of that overproduction, drastically reduce the production of sugar beet under quota A, abolish quota B, and immediately withdraw the storage premium for quota C? Will he seek those objectives during his presidency?

Mr. Curry

Proposals for reforming the sugar regime will be coming forward shortly. That is one of the matters that we shall have to deal with in our presidency. It is quite clear that, now that there has been a dramatic reform in the cereals sector, the sugar sector must also be reformed. It is clear also that cutting the price and dealing with the overproduction in Europe must be absolutely central to that reform.

Mr. Moss

I congratulate my hon. Friend on negotiating an extremely successful set-aside scheme which does not discriminate against arable farmers in my constituency, but does he accept that there is continuing downward pressure on farm incomes? Will he assure my farmers that, in the next round of negotiations, he will press as hard as he can for an increase in the sugar beet quota?

Mr. Curry

The practical course in reform of the sugar regime is to have a go at C sugar. The problem at present is that the high price for A sugar is used by many continental countries to justify overproduction of C sugar, which is then placed on the world market. If we can tackle that, we shall have dealt with one of the real problems of the regime.