SUGAR BEET producers only had themselves to blame for the radical reform of the support system now under way, independent sugar consultant Daniel Gueguen told the EAF meeting.

In the past, the sugar lobby had been successful in keeping sugar out of the WTO”s Uruguay Round commitments to rein in export subsidies. It had also managed to secure a rollover of the sugar regime when it was last up for review in 2001.

That was achieved through a combination of credibility, good strategy and budgetary discipline, said Mr Gueguen. But this had now been undermined.

“The system has become distorted in the last few years by farmers and processors, because of the huge level of C sugar production,” he said. “The EU has been producing around 5m tonnes a year of C sugar and that is a huge mistake.”

According to Mr Gueguen, the fact that countries like Italy, Greece, Finland and Sweden had all produced C beet just proved to the world that EU prices were far too high.

But with the “everything but arms” agreement and the recent WTO panel ruling against the EU”s export policy, the tide had now turned against the sugar regime.

The best strategy now was to accept that the status quo was not an option, to dismantle C beet production and agree to structured price cuts, with some compensation and cross border movement in quota. “Farmers and processors need to be proactive, to retake the initiative.”