The European Commission plans to propose steps to increase the EU's sugar supplies in the face of dwindling stocks and a growing gap between domestic and global prices.
The EU executive wants to boost supplies by a total of 1.2 million tonnes through a roughly equal combination of imports of raw cane sugar at reduced duties and sales of domestic beet sugar produced in excess of strict national production quotas.
"The balance sheet for the 2012/13 marketing year … showed that ending stocks are expected to go down from 2 million tonnes to 1.5 million tonnes," the Commission said in a statement on Thursday (8 November).
"Therefore it seems justified to conclude that for a fluid market and a market that is more responsive to developments on the world market, additional sugar is needed."
The announcement followed similar moves last year, when high world prices restricted EU imports and led to sugar shortages in several member states.
The proposals must be approved by EU government officials in the bloc's sugar management committee and are likely to enter force in January, the Commission said.
The EU executive will also approve the export of an additional 700,000 tonnes of out-of-quota sugar in the current 2012/13 marketing year, bringing total exports to 1.35 million tonnes – just within the 1.37 million tonne limit imposed by the World Trade Organization.
Out-of-quota sugar refers to EU sweetener produced in excess of annual production quotas and is usually either exported up to the bloc's annual WTO limit or sold for biofuel production and other industrial uses.
Sales of out-of-quota sugar for food and other consumer uses on the EU market are normally subject to a "super-levy" of €500 per tonne.
Copa-Cogeca called on MEPs to reject any new concessions which increase access for imports of raw sugar cane on the EU market and to extend EU sugar production quotas until at least 2020, claiming industry needs a stable EU sugar regime in order to improve its competitiveness.
The move comes as European Parliaments’ Agriculture Committee prepares a position on the future of the regime. Speaking in Brussels, Copa-Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen said: “It is vital to maintain EU sugar production quotas until at least 2020 to ensure we have a viable EU sugar sector in the years to come. A mechanism also needs to be introduced to automatically put out-of-quota sugar on the market when it needs it to maintain market balance.”