Sugar experts from around the Caribbean trade bloc this week embraced a decision by the European Parliament’s agriculture committee to give sugar producers in former colonies five more years of duty free and guaranteed quota access to its market, saying the extra time will give them a chance to be more competitive.

The EU announced the measure, after a committee meeting a week ago, to maintain until 2020 regional beet production quotas, meaning that the same applies to raw sugar production from Caribbean-bloc producers: Guyana, Jamaica, Belize and Barbados. Fellow CARIFORUM member, The Dominican Republic, also accesses that market.

Paul Bhim, director of the Guyana Sugar Corporation, the bloc’s largest producer and exporter, said the new breathing space is welcome news to the region and is likely to be endorsed by the European Commission (EC) when it meets shortly.

“The parliament is the big stage and once it is approved by the agri committee it is usually done by the commission so it means our sugar will go to that market duty free, with a fixed quota and to a guaranteed market for another five years,” Bhim said.

The original deadline was 2015. Removing quotas was regarded as the final step in reforming the decades-old EU’s sugar protocol that had protected former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) from an open market and from mega producers and exporters like Brazil, Thailand and Australia which have been trying to prise open the EU’s door at the expense of the ACP for years.

The region has a potential quota of about 500,000 metric tonnes of sugar to the EU with Guyana being the largest with about 170,000 tons followed by Belize and Jamaica coming behind. The EU’s fixed price is about Euros 335 per tonne but private refining companies often negotiate bilateral deals with Caribbean suppliers and offer even high prices Bhim said.

The Guyana-based bloc secretariat also welcomed the move saying the five-year period will give producers more time to reduce costs and prepare for a future free market in sugar. The EU has already cut import prices by 36 percent, forcing Trinidad and St. Kitts to leave the industry after more than 400 years.

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