Sugar cane growers have lowered their opposition to reform of the EU sugar regime, but still insist that the commission’s proposals go too far, too fast.

EU farm ministers and the commission met their counterparts from the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and the Less Developed Countries in Brussels on Monday (19 Sept) to try and iron out their differences.

Council president Margaret Beckett said she detected a “greater recognition on all sides that there has to be reform”.

She also stressed the need for individual countries to come forward with specific plans if they wanted to benefit from the 40m (27m) the EU is offering for redevelopment.

Representatives of the ACP states, which currently have preferential access to the EU, and the LDCs, which will soon benefit under the everything-but-arms agreement, acknowledged that change was inevitable.

But Mauritian agriculture minister Arvin Boolell warned that a reform that was “too deep, too swift, too abrupt and too violent would be a disaster for small, landlocked, vulnerable economies”.

He had particular concerns that the 40m (27m) compensation on offer was totally inadequate to help ACP and LDC countries diversify away from sugar. He reckoned 100m (68m) would be needed in the first year alone.

But EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel played down these fears. Even after a 39% cut, the EU sugar price would still be double the world price.