CIUS sugar group calls for EU support continuing sugar supplies from Ukraine

CIUS, the European sugar users industry organisation, has urged the EU to re-examine recommendations that could threaten present levels of sugar imports from Ukraine, as the region continues to grapple with a deficit of supplies, writes Neill Barston.

As Confectionery Production has previously reported, the issue has proved one of major concern for the wider food and drink sector, amid market price rises of 80% for the key ingredient during the past two years have hit manufacturers significantly hard.

Moreover, as CIUS noted, a meeting of the European  Parliament’s AGRI Committee voted and published its opinion on the renewal of Ukraine ATM (Autonomous Trade Measures which provide duty and quota free access for Ukrainian exports to the EU market to help Ukraine). It has subsequently issued a plea to the committee to consider the potential impact of any EU-wide decisions that are made.

According to the industry group, the Committee’s recommendations, include an adjustment to the reference years for triggering the “emergency safeguard measure” proposed by the Commission to cap imports of “sensitive” products.

In the view of CIUS, such a change of reference period would mean slashing imports from Ukraine, when European cultivation of sugar beets has for years been insufficient to supply European consumers and industry. CIUS understand the farmer’s fears of a crash in prices as a result of increased imports. However the facts are that for sugar the opposite has been the case over the last 2 years when both imports and prices have gone up.

“We have at no point been able to see any harm resulting from white sugar imports from Ukraine. On the contrary these imports have provided much needed revenue to the Ukrainian economy and supply of sugar to European food producers”, says Yury Sharanov, President of CIUS. EU sugar prices have more or less doubled over the last couple years. The current unbalanced EU sugar market does not warrant limiting duty-free sugar imports from Ukraine — especially not to the extent proposed by the AGRI Committee. Slashing imports from Ukraine will pose challenges to food production, employment, and the broader economy in both the EU and Ukraine.

Significant concern

Furthermore, according to CIUS, to introduce an earlier reference period would cut imports even more than under the Commission’s proposal, with no credible justification. The EU has a chronic sugar deficit, so imports from Ukraine are needed and provide a vital contribution to the European food industry and economy. Without them the EU’s strong export surplus in high value added sugar containing products is undermined as well as the Ukrainian economy.

The annual sugar import need is between 2 and 3.5 million tonnes of sugar each year (explained in slides here). Imports from Ukraine in the marketing year 2022/2023 amounted to 400 000 tonnes. The AGRI committee recommendations would cut them to 40 000 tonnes. The Commission’s proposal would cut them to 140 000 tonnes. EU sugar prices are at historically high levels and far above World Market sugar prices which are also trading at decade highs. (Latest EU data is on DG AGRI page dedicated to the sugar market) – and all this during the period in which the EU was benefiting from much needed imports from Ukraine.

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