EU COMMISSION plans to reform the sugar regime by slashing prices and paying for factory closures are both “incomplete” and “too radical”, according to Euro-MPs.
In a European parliament debate this week, the MEPs said there was too much emphasis on competitiveness and not enough on the social consequences.
Agriculture committee rapporteur on sugar Jean-Claude Fruteau also complained that the commission had failed to find new uses for sugar.
“In the long term we will have to look for alternative energy sources. So why not turn to sugar to produce bio-fuels? The commission hasn’t come up with anything new on this.”
Instead, the proposals focus on reducing surpluses by cutting sugar support prices by 39%, offering 60% compensation to growers and paying €730/t (£490/t) to decommission factories.
Hubert Chavannes of the International Confederation of European Beet Growers told the meeting that this was “too drastic” in terms of cutting production and didn’t ensure the sustainability of the sector.
He claimed that the commission was doing too little about the import problem and had abandoned any expectation of export – a view shared by most members of the agriculture committee.
Vice-chair Janusz Wojciechowski from Poland called for an impact study to be run before implementing such a far-reaching reform.
Marìa Isabel Salinas Garcia from Spain dubbed it “disproportionate” and “with no structure”.
Sugar rapporteur Mr Fruteau also argued that there were blatant shortcomings in the “everything-but-arms” provisions (providing duty free access for the least developed countries).
They did not address the possible resale of sugar by non-EU countries at EU-guaranteed prices, he said.
Among the rare supporters of the reform, Jim Murray, director of the European consumer organisation, BEUC, stressed that it finally put an end to the dumping of EU sugar on world markets.
He also pointed out that “consumers should not pay to maintain the sugar industry in twenty one member states when production in ten or fifteen countries could suffice”.
EU farm ministers will meet in Brussels next Monday to discuss the sugar reform plans. Around 4000 EU beet growers will also be there to voice their opposition.