JAMAICA OBSERVER – A recent article by Bloomberg is predicting that European demand for cane sugar exports from the Caribbean, including Jamaica, could soon be on the decline as the continent reverts to beet sugar.
“The European Union’s decision to remove limits on its own beet sugar output from October (2017) means less demand for cane growers from Jamaica in the Caribbean, to the Pacific island of Fiji, and Swaziland in southern Africa,” states the article ‘ Europe is waiving goodbye to sugar cane.’
Another article, posted by The Spectator — ‘ Brexit can benefit the poorest countries that produce sugar,’ by Phillip De Pass of ACP/LDC Sugar Industries Group — shares the same view. “But a change to EU rules from October 2017, which will see the abolition of production quotas on beet sugar and isoglucose for EU-based farmers, will most likely increase EU beet sugar production and reduce demand on the continent for imported sugar (cane) by half, from 3.2 million tonnes to 1.6 million tonnes.”
Jamaica and Belize “were among a group of more than 10 (African, Caribbean and Pacific or ACP) countries that benefited from quota- and duty-free access… of mostly raw sugar shipments to the EU in 2015-16”, according to
Bloomberg. Jamaica has shipped 60 per cent of its exports to Europe, while Guyana and Belize both shipped 80 per cent of theirs, based on a quoted report done by LMC International Ltd.
Also, about a third of raw cane sugar from the Caribbean exported to Europe is to be refined, with a third going through the United Kingdom. However, tariffs are applied to exports from other countries, the LMC report says.
“It’s not that we want to leave the suppliers behind. But if Europe has made the white sugar market really competitive, we have to have access to more competitive supplies,” an executive from a London-based refiner of Jamaican sugar said in the Bloomberg story.
Caribbean countries gained favourable relations when the UK joined the European Economic Community (precursor of the EU) in 1973. But while some countries in the Caribbean are nudging the UK to look after its former colonies and Commonwealth trade partners, other countries in the wider ACP have begun to diversify their markets and sugar products — refined, ethically produced or organically grown.
Caribbean Community ministers and stakeholders in the sugar industry were to meet in Kingston yesterday and today to assess how changes to the sugar production quota and Brexit could impact the region.
Even so, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Karl Samuda is referred to in the Bloomberg article as saying that the Government is intent on finding new markets for and by-products from sugar cane. “…we have to look to transitioning to value-added products such as ethanol and expansion of our rum industry. You know, Jamaica is famous for good Jamaican rum,” he is quoted as saying.
De Pass argues, though, in his article that there is still an “opportunity [for the UK ] to support our goals on international development and promote international trade as the most important driver of economic growth”. He further advocates that the current arrangement of quota- and tariff-free access for raw sugar be maintained, while retaining tariffs on supplies from other countries.