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Caribbean sugar faces an uncertain future – 14th Dec 2012

Caribbean sugar faces an uncertain future with the EU abolition of  sugar quotas and increases in imports from third world countries, which will be accepted into the European Union duty-free in about 3 years time. These concerns were discussed at a meeting of African Caribbean and Pacific countries the ACP grouping, which will be the hardest hit by the new measures.

Guyana’s Foreign Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, attended the Ministerial Meeting of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group in Equatorial Guinea, and chaired one of the sessions of the ACP Ministerial committees on sugar.

During that meeting, the concerns about the impact of those decisions on The ACP sugar producing countries were restated. The meeting noted that in addition to the millions of Euros the group stands to lose in exports, their investments in the sector which were designed to make them more competitive will not have the desired outcome. Guyana’s Skeldon modernization plan is one such infrastructural investment, that was to have cushioned the negative effects of the EU price cuts in 2009. There are also concerns too, that the ACP countries including Guyana, will not be able to supply the commodity at the vastly reduced prices.

The meeting directed its sub-committee on sugar, to urgently meet with the concerned parties to ensure that the measures to be undertaken do not jeopardize the preferential access enjoyed by the ACP countries. Back home in Guyana, the sugar industry employs thousands of Guyanese whose livelihoods will be in serious trouble if the proposals on the table by the EU are to take effect. The sugar Industry here has been plagued by several strikes and issues of management. The Skeldon factory was intended to be a modern masterpiece converting record tons of cane into sugar in faster than normal time. It was also envisaged to be a co-generating facility expected to feed electricity into the National grid. The factory has so far failed to meet those expectations with several technical and infrastructural hiccups preventing those goals.

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