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Last Updated:[22-01-2010 00:58:47 EDT] Zoom in Zoom out Back to Tradenews

EU Aims to Tide over WTO Ceiling on Sugar Exports

tradenews In the wake of repeated requests from International Confederation of European Beet Growers (CIBE) and other sugar agencies of Europe to export surplus sugar, the EU as a ‘matter of urgency’ is planning to seek legal means to breach the WTO ceiling on sugar exports. A month ago, it was estimated by CIBE that the quantity of sugar available for exports, at the end of 90 percent of the beet harvested was 2.4mn tonnes i.e. 800, 000 tonnes more than the export licenses already authorized.

In 2004, based on a complaint from Australia, Brazil and Thailand, which argued the EU was dumping its excess sugar into the global market, the WTO enforced a ceiling of 1.374mn tonnes on the EU sugar exports. Then, the WTO’s directive was in line with the world sugar prices which was comparatively far lower than the EU prices. Last month, Brussels had rejected beet growers' demands to allow more of Europe's sugar surplus onto the global market.

According to Agrimoney, a website that informs on the agriculture markets, Mariann Fischer Boel, the EU agriculture commissioner has received legal advice on whether, "in these exceptional circumstances", the region can breach its export limit. Ms Boel told a meeting of European farm ministers this week that she was likely to announce a decision on surplus sugar exports by this month end.

As the sugar producers in France and Germany, Europe’s top producers, reaped the biggest harvest since 2006 are reported to be in favour of surplus export. The CIBE in its latest press release stated while the world was crying for sugar, it was inexplicable why the sector was not allowed to obtain licenses to export more sugar now.

The EU sugar growers argue that since the world sugar prices are high the EU sugar injection to world market would not tantamount to dumping. They also feel the availability of sugar to the global market will remove shortage, help farmers an opportunity to earn more and provide consumers to get sugar at a lower cost.

Severe shortage and price spiraling of sugar has already created serious problems to consumers as well as the ruling party in India, the largest sugar consumer. The price of sugar in India has more than doubled in a period of 12 months.

There are clear indicators that in the coming quarters, several countries will line up for more sugar by increasing their import limits. An estimate from Moscow analysis group, Ikar that Russia will raise imports of raw sugar by 66 percent to 2.45 tonnes in 2010, and Pakistan for 50,000 tonnes of white sugar.

World sugar production is short of demand by over 14mn tonnes this year primarily due to vagaries of weather in Brazil and India, the largest sugar producers. Furthermore, the price of refined sugar is expected to reach a 20-year high of 30 cents per pound on the commodity market.

This year, India faced shortage after several years of excess sugar production due to monsoon failure and growers moving on to other crops. On the contrary, Brazil failed to produce enough owing to excess rain and increase in ethanol use.

By Jose Roy

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