London Members of the European Parliament Marina Yannakoudakis and Sarah Ludford yesterday met with Minister of State for Agriculture and Food David Heath to discuss high EU sugar prices and ensuring a level playing field for cane refiners and beet processors in order to protect jobs in their constituency.

The European Commission’s refusal to allow more raw cane imports into the European market is threatening jobs across the EU. 28 jobs have already been lost as London’s Tate & Lyle refinery continues to operate at 60% capacity. More than 4,000 jobs are at risk across Europe.

Marina and Sarah told David Heath MP that they believe that tariffs must come down for raw cane in order to save jobs and to ensure that consumers are getting a fair deal. Sugar prices in Europe are 80% above the market and Europe’s failure to address the market shortage is costing consumers dearly.

Marina Yannakoudakis, Conservative MEP for London said: “What we are trying to achieve is to get the Commission to include extra raw cane imports in its strategy to solve the sugar shortage. 

“We are looking for fair treatment – not a preferential position – for cane and losses for cane refiners coupled with massive profits for beet processors show that refiners like Tate & Lyle are getting a raw deal from the EU. 

“The EU sugar reform was meant to increase competition in the market and reduce prices. It has done neither. The European Commission needs to stop unfairly penalising both cane refiners and consumers.” 

David Heath, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food minister confirmed the UK government’s push for reform of the EU sugar market and for parity between beet and cane producers. 

Marina’s sugar campaign saw a small victory earlier this month when the Commission for the first time linked the cost of out-of-quota beet to import duties for raw sugar. This is a step in the right direction but cane refiners must still bid against one another – and speculators – for tenders while beet processors benefit from the transparency of a set price per tonne. There is a still a long way to go until a level playing field is achieved.

 Marina also condemned the recent vote by the European parliament’s agriculture committee on reform of the common agriculture committee. While she would have preferred a full liberalisation of the sugar market, she believes that if protectionist forces are determined to safeguard the beet sector that cane sugar should be given comparable treatment.