Agri. Minister scheduled to attend CARICOM Sugar Conference -as Caribbean states devise strategies to save ailing industry

Guyana’s Agriculture Minister Noel Holder will be heading a delegation to Jamaica where he is expected to attend a high level Caribbean Sugar Policy Workshop in Kingston from March 23rd to 24th. The event has been organized jointly by the Sugar Association of the Caribbean, CARICOM and other partners from inside and beyond the region.

The meetings will focus on challenges and risks facing regional sugar producers in light of changes to the European Union (EU) sugar regime. Participants will listen to the experiences of sugar producing states including Guyana, and suggest possible mitigating actions.

Issues that will be addressed during the first session of conference are the 2017 EU sugar reform and short term threats on the Caribbean sugar industry, the ways in which countries can access new markets, managing the politics of transforming the industry and ways in which the industry can respond to the trends as it relates to sugar consumption.

The second day will see participants developing policy responses by addressing trade and tariff policy options open to Caribbean policy makers and policy measures that that Caribbean policy makers can adopt to support a viable sugar industry. The third day is scheduled to facilitate a high level ministerial sugar stake-holders group meeting to address what can be done at that level to influence a positive change in the industry.

While Minister Holder is expected to present on the final day of the conference, GuySuCo’s Chief Executive Officer Errol Hanoman will be making presentations on the challenges facing Guyana’s sugar industry and government’s planned interventions by way of diversification.

Jamaica, Belize, Guyana and the Dominican Republic are listed as top producers in the Caribbean. However, many other nations are directly impacted by a number of debilitating factors, chief among which is the removal of the preferential quotas to the EU. These changes are set to take effect in October this year. The abolishment of national sugar production quotas for Europe is expected to result in a reduction of the price paid for sugar from the African Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), while causing the overall volume of EU sugar imports to fall as Europe becomes self-sufficient.

Caribbean sugar producers will now be forced to sell their sugar on the world market, competing with beet sugar producers at prices significantly lower than what was formerly enjoyed with the preferential EU market.

This combined with the existing problems facing Caribbean producers, could jeopardize the industry in the region, provided urgent interventions are not devised in the short term.

This meeting in Jamaica seeks to provide an opportunity for sugar producing Caribbean nations to present their cases outlining the unique challenges facing them individually while devising strategies to collectively move forward.