The European Committee of the UK House of Lords published the report of its hearings on the EU Sugar Regime in September 2012. During the hearings, submissions were received from a wide range of industry, governmental and research organisations (see Agritrade articles ‘ The future of EU sugar production quotas’, 23 September 2012 and ‘ Industrial users set out their views on sugar reform against backdrop of...’, 9 September 2012). Following study of the evidence, the committee made a number of specific recommendations for the EU’s future dealings with ACP/LDC sugar exporting countries. These included:
- the establishment of close collaboration between the EC and governments of affected ACP/LDC countries on the identification of ‘mitigation measures…needed beyond 2015’;
- the drawing up of a best practices guide on sugar sector restructuring, based on the most successful experiences in ACP countries to date;
- a strengthening of EC delegations in countries undergoing sugar sector adjustments to facilitate disbursement of sugar sector restructuring support;
- a revisiting of ACP/LDC action plans for sugar sector restructuring before 2015, with EU assistance being ‘targeted at issues identified by the countries themselves’;
- the conduct of a full impact assessment of the likely effect on ACP/LDC sugar producers of ‘any further commitments relating to the trade of sugar’, notably agreements on additional sugar import quotas under pending FTA agreements.
The recommendations need to be seen against the background of the belief that ACP/LDC countries will face exposure to increasingly volatile sugar prices and that ‘plans for further reform of the EU sugar regime have not sufficiently accounted for the likely impact on ACP and LDC countries and appear have been taken in isolation from discussions on future development policy’, which is the main vehicle for addressing the external effects of further EU sugar sector reforms.
The recommendations also need to be seen against the background of the call by the House of Lords Committee for the abolition of sugar production quotas by 2015 and an appropriate easing of import tariffs on both raw and refined sugar ‘in response to the world market’.
The House of Lords recommendations on how the EU should deal with the effects of further EU sugar sector reforms on ACP/LDC sugar exporters needs to be seen in the context of the recommendations to abolish EU sugar production quotas in 2015 (or at the earliest possible date thereafter) and liberalise sugar import tariffs. This position rules out accommodating ACP concerns within the process of CAP reform by deferring quota abolition.
Significantly, however, the position acknowledges both the need for further EU sugar sector restructuring support beyond 2015 and the need to improve the delivery and effectiveness of EU sugar sector-related assistance. It also implicitly calls for a broadening out of the beneficiaries of such support beyond traditional Sugar Protocol beneficiaries and for the level of support to be extended, based on an objective assessment of the likely impact of EU policy changes and policy developments on ACP/LDC sugar producers.
The recommendations of the House of Lords report thus add to ACP calls for a continuation of EU sugar sector-related assistance programmes beyond 2014, a development (in terms of the establishment of a dedicated financial instrument) that the EC had ruled out earlier.