Sunday, May 08, 2005

Poor countries want changes in sugar reform

The LDC Sugar Group which represents the 19 least developed countries with interests in sugar has called for changes in the EU's proposed sugar reforms. They argue that gains under the 'everything but arms' initiative will be outweighed by the planned 37 per cent price cut. They want a twenty per cent cut phased in over ten rather than three years. The LDC Group has tried to appeal to EU agricultural opinion by arguing that under their proposal sugar beet growers would survive in all but two EU countries (Finland and Italy) rather than disappearing in all but nine. However, their plan does not look feasible after the recent WTO appeal panel decision.

The problems faced by LDC sugar exporters are illustrated by the example of Mozambique, a country that is third from bottom on last year's UN human development index. Three out of four people live on less than $2 a day. It has a HIV/AIDS infection rate of 15% and has serious problems with malaria, cholera and tuberculosis. There is virtually no infrastructure with only one decent road running up the edge of the country.

The land is fertile and could develop quickly with more agricultural production and trade. Sugar offers one path out of poverty. The current sugar trade with the EU represents 16% of the country's exports and 34% of its export revenue. The real danger with sugar reform is that the beneficiaries will be emerging countries like Brazil rather than much poorer countries.

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