One year following the end of the quota regime, with world and EU sugar prices having reached historically low levels this summer, well below the reference threshold and the cost of production in the EU, the beet sugar sector in the EU continues to experience severe turbulences.
Furthermore, over-restrictive decisions on the use of plant protection products and new breeding techniques are strongly affecting European growers who have always been at the forefront of innovation and implementation of sustainable practices. Taking stock of this adverse situation, European growers call for urgent actions and for a stop to the “wait-and-see policy” of the EU Institutions. Indeed, the current severe crisis endangers the farms’ financial stability and the resilience of the EU beet sugar sector. The only winner of the reform are the sugar-using food and beverage industries, to whom around €1.5 billion value was transferred at the expense of farming families within one year.
- The move of the EU beet sugar sector from a net importer to a net exporter has significantly changed the price structure in the EU. But with production and exports (around 3. 2 Mt in MY2017/18) well behind those from Brazil, India and Thailand, the EU beet sugar sector is not a price maker. World fundamentals, positions of speculators and third countries dumping subsidised sugar on the world market are the cause of price fluctuations and the current collapse of sugar prices (minus 26% in the EU since September 2017).
- The necessary reactions by EU growers to market drivers are being limited and delayed by rigidity, low transparency of contractual framework and the weakening position of beet growers. EU beet sugar production in 2018/19 is expected to decrease, not because of significant beet area decrease but because of severe difficult climatic conditions this summer and poor yields in many regions, amplifying the very bad financial results of farms growing beet. CIBE’s first estimate for 2018/19 shows a decrease of EU production by around 2.4 Mt.
- The recent EU decisions against the use of plant protection products in pelleted beet seed and against the use of new breeding techniques further jeopardize the current and future competitiveness of the sector vis-à-vis third countries.
- The resilience of the EU beet sugar sector is put at risk because of the absence of appropriate safety nets and risk management tools and because of the impossibility for growers to hedge their margin and income.