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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Sugar mounds and wine lakes? Not likely, quota advocates say

Butter mountains and milk lakes. Those were the images invoked in the European Parliament this week by opponents of extending vineyard planting limits and protections for sugar beet farmers.
The images were meant as a parallel to the wasteful practices in the early years of the CAP, as the European Parliament voted, by a margin of 375 to 277, on 13 March for the market support measures that will carry the sugar quota through 2020 and planting limits for grape producers until 2030.

However, there are no sugar mountains today and the EU must import sugar to meet demand, angering confectioners and the food and beverage industry who say the protectionist system drives up prices.
Since the start of 2013, the European Commission’s sugar management committee has authorised the import of 584,000 tonnes of raw sugar - nearly half the 1.2 million tonnes the EU is expected to approve this year.
Also, Europe does produce far more wine than it can consume and domestic consumption is falling, but it has a lock on the world market where demand is growing, according to the Comité Européen des entreprises vins (CEEV), a wine trade association.
Vineyards are among the last areas of farming left to be liberalised after years of Commission efforts to erase protections for dairy and other farm products. The end of the planting restrictions stems from reforms during the last CAP overhaul that also called for the end of sugar price supports.
Opponents say using the CAP to support specific sectors is unfair, hurts competitiveness and affects consumers by forcing them pay higher prices.
There is currently a total EU production quota of 13.3 million tonnes of sugar, which is divided between nineteen Member States. The regulations on vineyard planting limits aim to regulate the total production, so that overproduction of wine is avoided.

Source: Euractiv, European Commission