The UK government must resist all attempts by other EU member states to water down proposed price cuts to sugar producers, urges a new report from Westminster’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee.
EU agriculture ministers meet in Brussels next week with the intention of finalising the commission’s sugar reform proposals, which seek a 43% cut in the beet price and a 39% cut in the sugar price.
“It seems certain that pressure will be applied in the negotiations to dilute the price cuts significantly,” says the EFRA report.
“The UK government’s position must be to support the commission in minimising any such dilution.”
The EFRA committee, chaired by Conservative MP Michael Jack, says low prices are essential to drive out inefficient producers and avoid compulsory quota cuts for the rest.
And it welcomes the proposed two-year phase-in period.
But it also suggests the UK should seek a change to the proposal to apply the proposed price cut to a merged A and B sugar quota.
This would disadvantage the UK disproportionately, given that it is a net deficit country with a lower B quota than most other member states.
“While no one disagrees with the need for a reformed sugar regime, our report highlights the need for the government to argue the British case, despite its role as President of the EU,” said Mr Jack.
“Some of the commission’s proposals on the new pricing regime impact unfairly on Britain’s farmers and this must be corrected.”
The EFRA report also insists that any fall in sugar prices is passed on to consumers, and it calls for a more generous compensation package for the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries which currently have preferential access to the EU and will lose out as prices are cut.