Trouble looming for the sugar industry

By Benjamin Flowers
Staff Reporter

The sugar industry in Belize is under increased pressure in 2017, in light of a decision by the European Union (EU) to remove the limitation that it had placed on beet sugar produced within the EU.
On October 1, beet farmers in the EU will be able to sell as much beet sugar on the market as they wish, which will provide a cheaper alternative for sugar purchasers within the Union.

Organizations which specialize in financial news, such as Bloomberg, estimate that the increase of beet sugar will drive the demand for cane sugar to a level that could cripple the sugar industry, not just in Belize, but in the wider Caribbean as well.

Belize is part of a group of 10 Caribbean nations which make up approximately 50 percent of the EU’s sugar imports. These nations have benefitted from a quota system, which saw duty-free access for 1.6 million metric tons of mostly raw-sugar shipments to the EU in 2015-16, alone.
David Jessop, regional trade and investment advisor for the Caribbean, expressed concerns that the removal of the beet sugar limitation could spell the end for Caribbean sugar exports to the EU.
“Within a decade or so, I can see the EU market for raw sugar from the Caribbean being all but a matter of history,” Jessop told Bloomberg.

“The challenge from the Caribbean perspective is what they can do, if anything, to ensure the future of their industry.”
The sugar industry has already been suffering from decreased revenues due to low world market prices for sugar. That pressure is also expected to increase, as the price for sugar in the EU makes a predicted decline.
Sugar is one of Belize’s major exports. The EU is on average the second largest importer of Belizean goods, with the bulk of those imports being sugar.

According to the External Trade Bulletin for January, produced by the Statistical Institute of Belize, the EU imported some $21 million worth of Belizean goods in January alone. Sugar imports represented $11.9 million of that $21 million.

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