Strasbourg, 4 July 2012 – EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş today met with a group of Members of the European Parliament who had written protesting against the European Commission’s competition-distorting sugar regime. Thousands of jobs are at risk across the European Union, including in Tate and Lyle’s London refinery, if sugar cane refiners and beet processers are not given a level playing field.

In his official reply to the 62 MEPs from 11 countries who signed the letter, Commissioner Cioloş wrote: “Decisions taken by the Commission since the 2006 sugar reform have been fair and balanced.”

London Conservative MEP Marina Yannakoudakis, who has been leading the campaign to get a better deal for cane refiners, said: “It is time for the Commissioner to recognise there is a problem and to act on it. This is not the first time we’ve been told that the sugar regime is fair, yet beet processors are reporting record profits while cane refiners, with a similar cost base in an unregulated market, are generally making losses.

“The Commission insists that the objective of the 2006 reform was to increase competitiveness, yet the Commission’s own officials dealing with competition have declared that current high prices for sugar as well as scarcity of supply are because of a lack of competition.”

Mariya Nedelcheva is a Bulgarian MEP from the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria Party and a member of the Agriculture and Rural Development committee. She said: “Refineries have stopped running at full capacity and there have been lay-offs with more jobs threatened. This is at a time when sugar cane refineries should be expanding because of increased demand.

“The Commission’s rigid stance means that sugar cane refiners aren’t being given a fair chance to compete. Commissioner Cioloş claims that sugar cane refiners are looking for special treatment when they only want a level playing field so that they may remain economically viable.”

Independent reports have shown that the 2006 EU sugar reforms have favoured beet over cane and new proposals are threatening to exacerbate the situation. At €716 per tonne, EU sugar prices are higher today than they were before the sugar reform. EU sugar prices are 65% higher than the world price and are rising, while world prices are falling due to surpluses.

4,500 highly skilled jobs at 18 sugar cane refineries in Bulgaria, Finland, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the UK are under threat if the Commission does not introduce more flexible arrangements for sugar imports.

Mrs. Yannakoudakis and the other MEPs will be taking their case to EU Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia next. They will also be contacting EU Employment Commissioner László Andor given the large number of jobs at risk unless changes are made to the sugar regime. The MEPs also proposed that a task force should be set up to address the problem immediately rather than waiting until the next sugar reform in 2015.

Article on sugar written by MEPs Marina Yannakoudakis, Regina Bastos, Ivailo Kalfin, Mariya Nedelcheva and Rare?-Lucian Niculescu: