Sugar quotas and EU farm spending budge dominate CAP reform debate

Quotas for sugar beet producers must be prolonged to allow beet producers time to adapt to new market realities, and EU farm spending should be frozen in real terms for 2014-2020, said many Agriculture Committee MEPs in Tuesday’s EU farm policy reform debate.In the debate, MEPs advocated retaining sugar quotas for EU beet farmers until 2020. Farmers have invested a lot in their capacity to produce sugar and a decision to phase out quotas already in 2015 would hurt them, many MEPs argued. „We have to show some responsibility in this sense”, argued Esther Herranz García (EPP, ES). Quotas „have brought stability to the EU market” and so should not be abolished, said Martin Häusling. If they were, „the market would not benefit either consumers or farmers”, but only the processing industry, he said. If sugar quotas are prolonged, then the rules should be made the same for everyone within the EU. Member states that lose their quotas should be given an opportunity to regain them, argued Sandra Kalniete (EPP, LT) and Mairead McGuinness (EPP, IE). Arguments for abolishing sugar quotas were „sufficient” said Hynek Fajmon (ECR, CZ), provided that the predictions of two invited experts – Bert Smit from Wageningen University in Netherlands and an independent British consultant Joan Noble – came true. Maintaining the current sugar quota regime „is surely not the way forward” said George Lyon (ALDE, UK), but he too warned that the experts’ predictions on the quota-free option could prove wide of the mark.. Abandoning quotas would „open up a lot of opportunities for farmers,” said Britta Reimers (ALDE, DE), but would also pose the question of whether Europe’s sugar industry can compete globally. Several MEPs called for more time for producers to adapt to a quota-free regime. In the UK, „we would very much like to take advantage of the system without quotas, but we will need some time to rebuild our factories. If these quotas are removed immediately, our producers are going to suffer”, John Stuart Agnew (EFD, UK) said. As demand for food grows, the EU must increase its agricultural potential to meet it. It must therefore maintain its agriculture budget at least at the current level, in real terms, in 2014-2020, said the Agriculture Committee on Tuesday in an opinion for the Budget Committee’s interim report on the EU’s future long-term budget. The real purpose of reforming farm market organisation is to strengthen the hand of producer groups in the food supply chain, argued Michel Dantin (EPP, FR), rapporteur on the common market organisation regulation. Many MEPs agreed, but said national specificities must be taken into account. Some observed that in the dairy sector, strengthening producer groups had helped, but not enough. Further European Parliament initiatives should be considered, they said. Many MEPs also called for the wine planting rights to be maintained and welcomed Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş’ recent indication that he was now looking at ways how best to regulate wine market.

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