Maria Ibini Written by Maria Ibini

UK SUGAR INDUSTRY CONCERNS OVER POST BREXIT

In just over 6 months, the UK will cease being a member of the EU, which will completely change the way our country is run; all industries will be affected in one way or another, and one of the biggest shake-ups will be what happens to the UK’s food and drink sector.

At the moment 70% of UK food and non-alcoholic drink imports and exports are accounted for by the EU, and since we are currently part of the EU internal market, there is zero-tariff trade on goods, plus no border checks, custom duties or inspection; obviously this will change once we leave the EU.

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At Ragus, we are leading suppliers in the pure sugar market so what happens when we leave the EU is a subject that is high on our agenda and we want to support the UK sugar industry as much as we already do. According to Greg Hands, the Minister of State for Trade Policy, he insists that the UK is committed to keeping a mix of beet and cane sugar supplies once it leaves the EU, and that the Government will seek a procedure where cane and beet sugar will be ’able to compete on an equal basis’; he adds that the UK sugar beet sector is ’one of the most competitive in the world’.

As it currently stands, 60% of the sugar consumed in Britain comes from sugar beet grown and processed in the UK & EU. The remaining 40% of sugar, consumed in the UK, comes from raw sugar cane which is grown outside the EU in countries like Brazil, China and India, and is subject to import tariffs. However, the worry from domestic beet growers, once the UK leaves the EU, is that the UK Government could relax or even abandon its support for home grown beet sugar, favouring transactions between private parties which are free from government intervention such as regulation, privileges, tariffs and subsidies. Thus, allowing food and drink companies and manufacturers to approach their suppliers directly from overseas; if this happens then the percentage of the sugar consumed in Britain that comes from home grown sugar beet could decline.

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Also, at the moment 2 million EU nationals work in the UK, that includes almost half a million in the food and drink supply chain; a third of whom work in manufacturing. Plus, over 50,000 are employed on a seasonal basis in farming and agriculture; thus, it isn’t just imports and exports that will be affected if the Government can’t put their visions into place, it’s our workforce too!

No one can yet predict the future, so it comes down to a case of having to wait and see what the future of UK sugar supply will be. Greg Hands offers the promise of continuing support for UK beet growers, but only time will tell!