UK beet growers seeking level playing field post-Brexit

Published: 04/26/2018, 8:08:41 AM

Sugarbeet growers in the UK are hoping for a level playing field when it comes to producing beet post-Brexit, seeking a balanced policy and trade solution that will keep them competitive in both the domestic and world markets, reports Sugaronline.

Michael Sly, a sugar beet grower and chairman of NFU Sugar, told the 8th Platts Kingsman Geneva Sugar Conference on Wednesday that after the UK leaves the European potentially by March 29, 2019, policy and trade changes could range in scale from "everything changing to nothing changing, or anywhere in between."

Key for UK growers to keep their competitiveness will be of tariffs, subsidies and regulatory differences, he said.

"The government must continue to value our high production standards and ensure UK farmers are not put at a competitive disadvantage to overseas producers subject to different standards and regulations. If trade policy does not enforce the same standards and regulations as UK growers have to adhere to, this would undermine the policy objectives of having these standards in place," said Sly.

Last season, the UK beet farmers supplied about half of the domestic sugar market with a majority of the balance coming from refined raw sugar imports and direct consumptions sugars from Mauritius and Europe, mostly France. Sly said post-quota production rose to 1.4 million tonnes from a previous EU quota of 1 million tonnes, allowing homegrown sugar to supply more of the domestic market.

Whether or not the UK continues to trade with Europe much as it has done prior to Brexit or if it will have to negotiate its own trade deals is the great unknown for the moment not just for the UK and European sugar industries but also for the wider trade relationship as a whole.

"Clearly, with sugar, future trade policy will be critical in determining how the UK's deficit is filled, whether it comes from EU beet sugar, sugar from LDC/ACP countries, and/or sugar from world markets refined in the UK," said Sly.