Guyana has welcomed a vote in the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development which supports the extension of the current quota provisions until 30 September 2020. Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy has described the decision to extend the sugar quota from 2015 to 2020 as a “welcomed decision.
“There has been extensive lobbying and many in Guyana and the Caribbean believed that the Government and the other Governments that joined in the lobby were wasting their time that the Europeans will not extend their time beyond 2016. We believed that the European leaders would have listened to reason”.
Chairman of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Sugar Subcommittee, Guyana-born Dr. P.I. Gomes, had earlier this week regarded the vote as a “positive development” even as he acknowledged “we have a long way to go. "I seek the support of the European Parliament and the European Council as the final decision is taken on this critical issue,” said the Guyana diplomat.
“It is worth mentioning that coherence between various EU policies, namely trade, development and agriculture, is a core condition of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement and the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). “The achievement so far supports the essential coherence of the EU relationship with ACP and LDC countries and in furtherance of these objectives it is crucial that EU institutions work to sustain the beet sugar quota arrangements within the Single Common Market Organisation for sugar until 2020,” Gomes said.
Ramsammy said Europe had initially indicated that they were not willing to extend the quota beyond 2016. “In other words they would have given a one year extension. Guyana was vigorous in our lobby and at an African, Caribbean and Pacific Group meeting that was shared by our Foreign Affairs Minister; the ACP countries had started a lobby that the quota arrangement should not come to an end in 2015 or in 2016. We should at minimum extend it to 2020 and even beyond.”
The minimum position taken by the lobbying countries, including Guyana’s was that the deadline should be 2020. The EPA, launched in 1973, initially stated that the sugar protocol was indefinite. It was to compensate countries such as Guyana, which for hundreds of years as a colony, supported the economies of developed countries.
In 2005/2006 period, this EPA was revised and resulted in a drop of 36 per cent in the price of sugar supplied from ACP countries. Ramammy said that this move was seen as “a betrayal of trust” and the proposed action to end the sugar quota in 2015, would have been viewed as another. “We believed that the period of time for the industries to re-orient themselves was not enough and the mechanisation and modernisation of the sugar industry will take much longer than the period given to us. “We also believed that this modernisation have to occur within a new reality, the reality of climate change. Because of that, we needed more extensive time for our industries to have to give up the preferential European market.
“That is why we thought that the lobbying effort must be tireless, must be vigorous and we mustn’t give up. We therefore, have shown by our resoluteness that we were correct in expending the energies we did to have the Europeans considered extension of the quota arrangement.”
Ramsammy said he was satisfied that Guyana played a vigorous role in the lobbying effort as the country has the most to lose. Ramsammy said that the sugar industry therefore has another seven years or so to adjust and this must occur, indicating that the planned adjustments will be announced at a later date.