A Government decision to allow the UK to import 260,000 tonnes of raw cane sugar from January 1, 2021 will undermine thousands of UK sugar beet growers and jeopardise the viability of the home-grown crop, industry has warned.
The new Autonomous Tariff Quota (ATQ), as part of the UK Global Tariff (UKGT), will apply for 12 months with an in-quota rate of 0 per cent, and the volume will reset each year on January 1, subject to future review.
Government hoped the ATQ with this volume would support the UK’s raw cane sugar refining capacity and promote ‘consumer choice and competition’ in the UK sugar market.
But one producer, who wished to remain anonymous, said it could spell the end for the UK sugar beet industry in 18 months.
NFU president Minette Batters added she was incredibly disappointed by Government’s decision to press ahead with an ‘enormous tariff-free quota for raw sugar imports’.
“The Government’s justification suggests that the price of sugar ‘would be no different’ as a result of the tariff-free quota but also that it ‘is in the interests of UK consumers’,” Ms Batters said.
“It is hard to square these two assertions, and it is very difficult to understand what exactly this quota serves to achieve, apart from harming a successful home-grown industry.
Back in August, Farmers Guardian reported concerns US owned Tate and Lyle, headquartered in London, stood to be the sole beneficiary of the move as the UK’s only importer of raw cane.
Reflecting on the Government’s new import tariff regime (UKGT), Ms Batters said it would provide certainty for farmers by largely maintaining import tariffs at present levels.
“The majority of British farmers will be pleased the Government is sticking to the tariff regime it announced in the spring, whether or not we strike a deal with the EU.
“Doing so ensures fairness for farmers and will help to prevent a flood of new imports of food produced in ways that would be illegal here.
“Of course, these new tariff costs would come into force on imports from the EU in a no-deal scenario, which no-one wants to see.
“Such an outcome would have severe ramifications for the long-term future of British farming, despite the important protections the UKGT will provide.”