NEW IMPORT quotas for sugar are being drawn up in Brussels to try and stem the flow from the western Balkans.

According to the European Commission, this trade has grown from zero in 1999 to over 270,000t last year, with countries such as Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia all taking advantage of the duty-free access they were granted under the so-called “stabilisation and association process”.

Apart from the high volume of shipments, the commission has become increasingly concerned at the role of Third country cane sugar.

This is routinely imported into the Western Balkans to replace their domestic sugar and sometimes slips into consignments destined for the EU.

“In view of these countries‘ long term orientation towards the EU and the foreseeable price reductions under EU sugar reform, it is not sustainable to encourage them to produce large quantities of sugar for export to the EU, while supplying domestic needs with imports from third countries,” said EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler.

The commission has therefore proposed new duty-free quotas set at 150,000t for Serbia and Montenegro, 12,000t for Bosnia and Herzegovina and 1000t for Albania.

Quotas for Croatia and Macedonia will have to be negotiated separately.

The proposal is currently being examined by technical committees in Brussels and is likely to be voted on by agriculture ministers in December.