BRUSSELS, Belgium, July 20,
2004: Meeting in Brussels on July 19, European Union’s
agricultural ministers came to an easy agreement, the sugar regime
set up in 1968 and practically unchanged since, needed to be reformed.
No other point brought such agreement, as Agriculture Commissioner
Franz Fischler’s proposed reforms were defeated on a varying
set of criteria.
Ministers disagreed with Fischler over the levels and the stages proposed
for reducing the intervention price for sugar as well as the minimum
price of beet. Concerns were also raised about the proposed reform
of the quota system and the transfer of quotas between Member States.
Several ministers also raised the issue of the compensation level
for price cuts. The Fischler proposal introduces a system whereby
payments are decoupled from the level of production.
The current system has come under widespread criticism for being over-protective
of EU farmers and sugar manufacturers, keeping prices artificially
high and dumping EU exports on the world market. These practices have
distorted the world price for sugar and left farmers in developing
nations suffering with the low prices of a flooded market.
To help sort out lingering questions ministers tagged a special committee
of agricultural experts to conduct a thorough examination of the current
regime and report back to them at a later date.