MEPs hold off sugar reform until 2006

By FWi staff

A FIVE-YEAR rollover of the EU sugar regime is looking increasingly likely after rejection of the commissions reform proposals by the European parliament this week.

Under the original plans, sugar quota would be cut by about 1% from July and storage reimbursements abolished.

Agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler was also looking to keep the current quota-based system for just two more years.

More radical reforms were pencilled in for 2003, possibly involving the dismantling of quotas.

But, after a debate on Monday, MEPs voted by 349 to 125 against these ideas. Instead, they backed a report by French MEP Joseph Daul calling for an extension to the current sugar regime until 2006.

“The common market organisation for sugar has already undergone several reforms including an agreement to cut quota by 500,000t for the 2000/2001 marketing year,” said Irish MEP Liam Hyland.

Changing it now would undermine farmers confidence in the EU to deliver stability.

British Conservative MEP Robert Sturdy added that the existing support regime was unique.

“First, the taxpayer does not pay for it. Second, it benefits farmers directly, unlike many parts of the CAP. And thirdly, it helps some of the poorest countries in the world.”

Generally the parliament believed the regime had worked well for 30 years and the changes suggested by the commission were unnecessary.

Mr Fischler could ignore the parliaments opinion. But with 10 member states in the EU farm council already calling for a five-year rollover, that seems unlikely.

“This is good news,” said the NFUs Brussels adviser, Betty Lee. “I would be surprised if he goes for anything other than a five-year rollover.”

A decision is expected in the April or May farm council.

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