Member States yesterday voted on two measures proposed by the European Commission aimed at ensuring the fluidity of the EU sugar market in the coming months as a further response to this year's exceptional market circumstances.
The first measure is to open a further 200.000 tonne import quota ["erga omnes"] for raw or refined sugar at zero import duty. This will be managed in the same way as the initial 300.000 tonnes opened in April 2011.
The second measure introduces the possibility for further imports at reduced import duty via a tendering system. EU operators may submit offers for importing sugar at a reduced import duty, and the Commission will assess the volumes and duties offered and decide which bids to accept based on the evolution of the EU and world sugar market situation.
This tender system would start in July, with regular adjudications in the Management Committee until the end of the marketing year (end of September). Import licences issued in accordance with this measure will be valid for 3 months.
The two measures will now be formally adopted by the Commission in the next weeks.
In the wake of this year's market situation, which has seen world market prices higher than EU prices for the first time ever and therefore lower levels of imports than usual in particular from third countries benefiting from certain preferential agreements, the Commission has already implemented measures to ease any supply difficulties. In November 2010, it suspended the 98 €/t import duty on certain import quotas; in March, it released 500.000 tonnes of "out of quota" EU sugar and 26.000 tonnes of "out of quota" isoglucose onto the EU market (which would otherwise have been held back until next year); and in April it opened an "erga omnes" import quota of 300.000 tonnes at zero import duty. Nevertheless, based on the updated analysis of the EU sugar market, the level of the EU ending stocks would represent less than 10% of the utilisation. In this economic environment the Commission has the responsibility to ensure a fluid functioning of the EU sugar market avoiding any undersupply in the next months.