Gathering in Reims on June 12 and 13, European sugar beet growers unanimously supported the prolongation of sugar quotas to 2020, and not 2015 as provided by the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). French Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll and Michel Dantin, EP Member and Rapporteur on CAP reform, endorsed the beet growers’ opinion.
While beet growers are not opposed to the principle of stronger long-term international competition, they nevertheless felt that conditions were not met for a 2015 dismantling, and singled out the flaws in the European Union rationale.
“The Commission always wanted to anticipate the WTO talks, that is to say propose reforms before they become imperative through WTO agreements,” said Eric Lainé, President of the CGB1. Yet, the Doha Round has been “brain-dead” for several months and, at the same time, other major sugar producers are maintaining––even strengthening––their support policies for the sector.
The United States has a system for allocating quotas and managing importations, which ensures a permanent balance between sugar supply and demand on its territory. Thailand, another major producer, has implemented a quota system that provides local growers with adequate compensation.
The European Union, for its part, pursues the opposite direction, and yet does not have a precise idea of the price and competitiveness consequences of quota abolition, due to the lack of appropriate tools. Yet, the policies implemented in the United States or in Thailand clearly show how unstable is the sugar market, and the need for specific regulatory measures.
Before definitively committing to a path whose consequences are uncertain and potentially risky for the balance of the industry, it is therefore crucial to have impact studies that are as precise as possible, and simulate the effects of quota dismantling, taking into account the economic and structural nature of sugar.
1 Confédération Générale des planteurs de Betteraves, or General Confederation of Beet Growers.