BRUSSELS HAS issued a new action plan to help African, Caribbean and Pacific sugar suppliers cope with lower prices following reform of the sugar regime next year.

These countries currently enjoy preferential access to the EU in respect of 1.3m tonnes of cane sugar each year, ensuring they receive higher prices. One of the big problems stemming from reform is how to avoid disrupting their sugar sectors and damaging their fragile economies.

The new package presented to ACP agriculture ministers in Brussels on Monday (Jan 24) focuses on trade measures and development assistance. The aim is to ensure that affected countries can still compete while diversifying away from commodity production.

EU trade minister Peter Mandelson said the ACP countries would continue to have preferential access, albeit at a lower price, as would the least developed countries through the everything-but-arms agreement.

“Since the EU price will remain above the world price for sugar, many LDC exporters will still find an incentive to develop their sugar sectors and increase their earnings from the EU market,” he told journalists.

But Mauritian agriculture minister Mando Bodha said the 33% price cuts on the table, and the short transition period of just three years, would cripple the sugar industries in the ACP countries. “We cannot bear such a reform.”

While he accepted that there was a need to change the EU sugar regime and welcomed the idea of an action plan, ACP countries needed more time and more profitable prices to be viable.