LORDS

UK sugar consumers get a raw deal, says Lords

04 September 2012

The EU must do more to get UK consumers a better deal on sugar, says the Lords Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment and Energy EU Sub-Committee in their new report published today.

The report, 'Leaving a bitter taste? The EU Sugar Regime', is the conclusion of the Committee’s short, follow-up inquiry following 2005’s 'Too Much or Too Little? Changes to the EU Sugar Regime', published when reform of the regime was imminent. The Committee wanted to examine the progress of reform and what measures will be necessary in future, prior to the EU finalising its position on this issue in the autumn.

Lord Carter of Coles, Chair of the Committee, said:

"This is a critical time for the EU sugar regime. With the EU about to formulate its policy for the next 20 years, the decisions it makes must be right, both for sugar growers, producers and, ultimately, for consumers.

Certainly, it is the consumer for whom we have the greatest concern. After the last set of reforms took place, the price of sugar in the EU decreased.  However, this was just for the growers and the producers – the cost to the consumer actually increased, meaning they did not reap the benefits of the decrease in sugar prices.

The sugar market has very few significant operators. For consumers primarily, but for the industry too, the pricing process needs clarity and transparency. We believe that an investigation by the UK’s Office of Fair Trading would be an excellent way of providing independent advice to the Commission on how the process impacts on UK consumers. We allege no collusion, but we think an investigation would assist all concerned in lifting the shroud of mystery that hangs over the industry.

We hope that the European Parliament will consider our recommendations during their debates on sugar reforms this autumn. If not, we fear that consumers will be the ones left paying the heaviest price for sugar – and that certainly isn’t a sweet deal for them."

Other recommendations from the Committee include the abolition of production quotas in 2015, that import tariffs on raw and refined sugar are eased and that the European Commission carefully monitors the disbursement of funding set aside to help lessen the impact of the 2006 reforms on developing countries to combat the delays that have been experienced thus far.

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