Newham MEP takes on EC over sugar cane imports

Newham Liberal MEP Sarah Ludford has challenged the European Commission to lift restrictions on imports of raw cane sugar which are threatening the future of Tate & Lyle.

She helped instigate a debate in the European Parliament to discuss lifting restrictions on the imports of raw sugar cane for refining.

Traditional cane refiners like Tate & Lyle - which compete with beet sugar producers - were once assured access to a minimum level of supply but after 2006 reforms to the EU sugar market this is no longer the case. To get sufficient supply to keep the refineries going they are having to pay big tariffs on imports from Brazil and Thailand, making production unviable and threatening jobs. This is affecting refiners in Rumania, Bulgaria and Portugal as well as the UK.

Sarah and other colleagues are angry at the refusal of the Commission to relax EU rules to ease the difficulties of cane refiners, safeguard jobs and moderate the high prices consumers have to pay.

She said: “We seem to face a European Agricultural Commissioner who is deaf and blind to the desperate need for a level playing-field between beet and cane production. I am furious that his stubborn refusal to allow cheaper cane imports is unfairly threatening the jobs of my constituents.

“Cane refiners are operating at a significant disadvantage and this is costing hardworking, reputable manufacturers revenue and jobs.

“Tate & Lyle have been in business for over 100 years and employs around 800 full time staff, with suppliers adding yet more employment. I am determined to help safeguard those jobs, and my next move will be to seek a meeting with the new UK farm Minister, the LibDem David Heath MP.”