Fair EU sugar reform could revitalize WTO talks

Published: 22 November 2005

Brussels, November 10, 2005: The European Union’s (EU) sugar regime reform proposals look set to sell out the interests of the world’s poorest people and represent a missed opportunity for the EU to show its commitment to the WTO process, said advocacy groups defending developing countries and the environment today. Long time trading partners, the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, and the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group, have joined forces with Oxfam International and WWF International to come out strongly against the planned reform by the EU ahead of a key meeting to discuss the sugar reform.

Brussels, November 10, 2005: The European Union’s (EU) sugar regime reform proposals look set to sell out the interests of the world’s poorest people and represent a missed opportunity for the EU to show its commitment to the WTO process, said advocacy groups defending developing countries and the environment today. Long time trading partners, the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, and the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group, have joined forces with Oxfam International and WWF International to come out strongly against the planned reform by the EU ahead of a key meeting to discuss the sugar reform.

As talks under the Doha Development round continue, Europe could inject real momentum into the stalled talks by reforming its sugar regime specifically to help poor country farmers, they said.

“Sugar reform is a litmus test for the EU’s commitment to trade rules that genuinely support development and poverty reduction ahead of the WTO Ministerial,” said Luis Morago, head of Oxfam International in Brussels. “But we fear that once again the reform will reward big companies and the big sugar exporting countries, and threaten the jobs of millions of vulnerable workers, including a large percentage of women, in some of the poorest parts of the world.”

The proposed sugar reform over the next 8 years would lavish an eye-watering total of 17€ billion of EU taxpayers' money on sugar beet farmers and processors. EU refiners would be similarly protected by means of unfair restrictions applied to imported raw sugar. To add insult to injury, the Commission now seems ready to increase even further these sums from the ACP suppliers under the Sugar Protocol in order to buy agreement in the Agriculture Council.

Together, the ACPs, the LDCs, Oxfam and WWF, demand a much better deal that is fair and equitable to the poor sugar-exporting countries as to avoid causing further harm to the environment and the poorest and most vulnerable people of these countries which mostly do not have alternatives.

Currently, EU sugar farmers and processors are being offered a generous €5 billion in 2006 to help them adjust to the reform. In contrast 18 ACP countries are set to receive a meagre €40 million and the LDCs will receive nothing.

“This is not a fair deal. It is an insult to poor farmers who cannot cope or hope to adjust with such meagre compensation,” said George Bullen, Brussels’ Ambassador for the East Caribbean States speaking for the ACP sugar group. “We don’t want hand outs, we want to be able to sell our sugar to enable our own people to make a decent living. Like EU farmers and industry, we need time and support to adjust our own industries to adapt to the reforms. At the moment, EU ministers are not listening to our concerns.”

"The world's poorest countries need their own plan to help them adjust. This must include accelerated access to the EU market for all qualities of sugar, at remunerative prices, and sufficient time to consolidate and develop their sustainable sugar industries. Indeed, accompanying measures to support ACP sugar Protocol Countries should also include LDCs, " added Ambassador Ali Yousif Ahmed on behalf of the LDC sugar industries.

“The current reform proposals look set to damage prospects for developing countries and in turn the environment that they depend on. The EU must face up to its responsibilities to help the world's poorest countries to invest in viable sugar industries that use better environmental practices like efficient irrigation and reduced use of pesticides and fertilizers. Only then will they have a sustainable future,” concluded Adam Harrison of WWF.

Contact Information

For more information, please contact:
Louis Bélanger, Oxfam Media Officer: +32 473 562 260
Nidhendra Singh, ACP Spokesman: +32 4 75 369 265
Julian Price, LDC Group Secretary: +44 7768 908347
Catherine Brett, WWF Communications Officer: +32 2 740 0936, cbrett@wwfepo.org