EC sugar policy reform plan threatens Czech Republic's self-sufficiency

22-07-2004

The European Union has faced much criticism for its sugar policy, which developing countries say distorts trade and fails to meet consumers' needs. In reaction to the criticism, the European Commission recently proposed a more market-, consumer-, and trade-friendly regime, which liberalises the European market to other countries, introduces price cuts, lowers production quotas, and reduces subsidies to farmers.

But while EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler believes the proposed plan offers a more market-driven approach and less trade distortion, smaller sugar producers such as the Czech Republic say they will be hit hard. Part of the plan proposes to merge local and export production quotas and then decrease them by 16%. Czech Agriculture Ministry spokesman, Hugo Roldan, explains to Dita Asiedu, why this would have a serious impact on Czech farmers:

"Because this would put the Czech Republic in the position of an uncompetitive outsider concerning sugar production and such a reform would force us to become a sugar importer, while the country has been self-sufficient on the production of sugar for eighty years and has a sugar producing tradition of over 170 years."

What percentage of the sugar produced is actually exported?

"Well, according to the quota we can export up to three percent of our production."

Then that obviously has a big effect on Czech farmers...

"Exactly. That's because by this means, we wouldn't be able to export anything, while at the same time, we are supposed to lower our production quota for the local market to thirteen percent. Besides all of this, some growers would be pushed to re-orient their farming to other crops. We also have to take into consideration the agro-technical point of view because sugar beet is also very important to the farmers as it is an irreplaceable crop before growing cereals, for instance. Also, in the regions where sugar beet has been growing, there is no other alternative for a foregoing or preceding crop."

Do you think that you stand a chance when it comes to fighting for better conditions?

"Yes definitely. The first meeting concerning that, and official meeting between the ministries of agriculture of the union was held last Monday. Now, a commission of experts of the respective countries and of the EC will study the problem and we expect to hold another meeting in October."

22-07-2004

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