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Clarke wants regional consensus on sugar

Published:Wednesday | May 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer

Western Bureau:

Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke says the impending changes in the European Union (EU) sugar regime, which are poised to unfold in 2017, are set to create significant challenges for small sugar-producing states. He is of the view that a regional consensus is crucial for countries like Jamaica.

"The changes in the EU sugar regime in two years' time are going to pose tremendous challenges for sugar-producing nations like Jamaica," Clarke told The Gleaner yesterday on Day One of the three-day 45th Council Session of the International Sugar Organization, which is taking place at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort in Montego Bay, St James.

"As a region, we have agreed that a CARICOM consensus is crucial to confront this new era, and secondly, how we trade among ourselves because we do import a substantial amount of sugar," Clarke added.

"We have to make our presence felt as a region … . We have been going through our ambassador in Brussels, but we want to back that up with ministerial intervention."

At present, there are four active sugar-producing nations in the region: Jamaica, Belize, Guyana, and Barbados.

Reforms to the EU's common agricultural policy in March last year will result in the abolition of sugar quotas come 2017. That will bring an end to the preferential treatment that African, Caribbean and Pacific sugar producers have been enjoying since 1975.

Under the new regime, it will mean greater competition for Jamaica from lower-cost producers. The end date was initially set for 2015, but an extension of two years was granted in a split decision among member states after some countries sought additional time for the sector to adjust.