In recent weeks, Clare has received a large amount of correspondence on the important issue of sugar cane farmers in developing countries and the role of the EU in supporting them.
Clare and her Labour colleagues agree that these sugar cane farmers, many of whom are Fairtrade, need targeted and effective support to ensure their livelihoods in the years to come.
As strong supporters of Fairtrade, Labour MEPs have been active on this issue for many years. Reforms were made in the sugar sector back in 2006, and Labour MEPs pushed for the establishment of a specific fund to help sugar cane farmers in developing countries adapt to these reforms. This was established by the EU and known as the Accompanying Measures for Sugar Protocol. It had a budget of €1.2 billion as part of the Development Cooperation Programme of the EU.
Now that the cap on sugar production within the EU is soon to be lifted, it is vital that the farmers affected continue to be supported effectively. In the last 18 months Labour MEPs have raised the issue with former Commissioner Piebalgs and the EU Delegations in the relevant countries and asked for clarity on how the current support programmes are being implemented.
At the same time, Labour has opposed the granting of extra subsidies by some European countries to their sugar beet industries, known as Voluntary Coupled Support, and will continue to do so. As you rightly point out, this is not a level playing field between EU producers and sugar cane farmers from the developing world.
More recently, Labour MEPs have been working with the Fairtrade Foundation to raise this issue with current Commissioner for Development Neven Mimica, and will request a meeting with him in the coming weeks to clarify how the existing funding can be used more effectively and how the overall development budget can help ensure sugar cane farmers can continue their livelihoods. Additionally we should ensure that the farmers have a seat at the table in the decisions that affect them.