The Chair of the International Sugar Organisation and Fijian Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama today briefed more than 100 delegates of the 43rd Session of the International Sugar Council on the comprehensive series of reforms undertaken by government in the sugar industry.
He has called on the European Union to enter into negotiations with the Pacific with a sense of urgency on the extension of the European Union-ACP quota system.
Prime Minister Bainimarama said that government was sparing no effort to revitalise Fiji’s sugar industry as it remained a major economic driver, providing livelihoods for 200,000 Fijians (more than 20 percent of Fiji’s population).
Commodore Bainimarama said the African, Caribbean and Pacific sugar exporting countries including Fiji are seeking a five year extension of the EU-ACP quota system from 2015 to 2020.
Under this system, Fiji and other ACP sugar producing countries export sugar to the EU market at a preferential price.
According to Commodore Bainimarama, the additional five years will give ACP countries added security as they continue to restructure, modernise and diversify their sugar cane industries to meet today’s challenges and demands.
Commodore Bainimarama added that the world sugar prices remain volatile, and shifts in production in a number of large sugar-producing nations have drastically altered the marketplace.
Currently, global production is higher than it has been for a long time, up 3.2% from last season, outstripping demand.
This means that the price of sugar is down, and global stocks are forecast to increase as excess sugar is held over to next year.
He said the alternative is the EU’s Interim Economic Partnership Agreement, which the countries regard as highly problematic.
The EU has announced that Pacific countries that do not ratify this interim EPA by 2014 will lose duty-free access, including sugar.
According to Bainimarama, in the case of the ACP countries attending the meeting, their highest priority relates to their relationship with the European Union as almost all of the ACP’s sugar exports are to the EU.
He said the Council will be updated on all of the latest developments during their deliberations in Nadi this week.