Sugar Beet: Production

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered am ar 14 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Framlingham Lord Framlingham Ceidwadwyr

To ask His Majesty's Government what estimate they have made of the fall in overall domestic sugar beet production resulting from the proposed changes in agricultural policies and payments.

Photo of Lord Douglas-Miller Lord Douglas-Miller The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

For around 2,300 growers in the East of England sugar beet plays a vital role in soil and crop health in the arable farm rotation, allowing a season of “rest” from cereal production. Farmers consider a range of factors, including global market developments in price, their soil type and their long-term agronomic strategy, when deciding which crops they should include in their crop rotation. Domestic disease and pest pressures and the weather will also impact the quality of the crop and resulting sugar production levels.

The UK has a high degree of food security, built on supply from diverse sources, strong domestic production as well as imports through stable trade routes. We produce 60% of all the food we need, and 73% of food which we can grow or rear in the UK for all or part of the year. These figures have changed little over the last 20 years: historical production figures, including for the commodities you reference, can be found in “Agriculture in the United Kingdom”, a publication of annual statistics about agriculture in the United Kingdom at GOV.UK. UK consumers have access through international trade to food products that cannot be produced here, or at least not on a year-round basis. This supplements domestic production, and also ensures that any disruption from risks such as adverse weather or disease does not affect the UK's overall security of supply.

Domestically, the Government has committed to broadly maintain the current level of food we produce. This includes sustainably boosting production in sectors where there are post-Brexit opportunities, including horticulture and seafood, and the Agriculture Act imposes a duty on the Secretary of State to have regard to the need to encourage environmentally sustainable food production. Our farming reforms aim to support a highly productive food producing sector by supporting farmers to manage land in a way that improves food production and is more environmentally sustainable, and by paying farmers to produce public goods such as water quality, biodiversity, animal health and welfare and climate change mitigation, alongside food production.

Speaking at the recent National Farmers Union Conference in Birmingham, the Prime Minister and the Environment Secretary announced a range of measures to boost productivity and resilience in the sector, including the largest ever grant offer for farmers in the coming financial year, expected to total £427 million. This includes doubling investment in productivity schemes, bolstering schemes such as the Improving Farming Productivity grant, which provides support for farmers to invest in automation and robotics, as well as solar installations to build on-farm energy security. The Prime Minister also announced a new annual UK-wide Food Security Index, which will capture and present the data needed to monitor levels of food security, and announced plans to hold the Farm to Fork Summit annually.

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