EU rift on sugar reform

DEEP DIVISIONS emerged this week (w/e Nov 26) over the future reform of the EU sugar regime, though all farm ministers meeting in Brussels agreed that change was inevitable.

Spain leads the list of those opposed to the radical changes proposed by the European commission, together with nine other countries.

They wrote to new agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel with a list of demands.

“For environmental, economic and social reasons, sugar beet should continue to be produced as before in the different regions,” says the letter, signed by ministers from Greece, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Portugal, Slovenia and Finland.

The ten-strong bloc called for import quotas to be introduced for third countries, smaller price cuts than the 33% proposed and for quota cuts to target countries with large “B quotas” which are responsible for export surpluses.

“Furthermore, the transfer of quota among member states should not be allowed.”

But two reports have also been launched in Brussels, designed to put pressure on farm ministers for a more radical reform of the EU‘s sugar regime than the current proposals.

The first from Oxfam, entitled A Sweeter Future , points to the economic damage the current regime of high internal prices, import protection and export subsidisation does to millions of producers in the Third world.

A second report by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature focuses on the environmental impact of the EU‘s sugar regime.

Called Sugar and the Environment , the report says that sugar may be responsible for the loss of more biodiversity than any other crop.

Encouraged by high prices, sugar production leads to intensive use of irrigation, heavy use of agrochemicals, air pollution and run-off of polluted effluent, it claims.

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