Overview

The EU is the world’s leading producer of beet sugar, with around 50% of the total amount. However, beet sugar represents only 20% of the world’s sugar production, with the other 80% produced from sugar cane.

Most of the EU's sugar beet is grown in the northern half of Europe, where the climate is more suitable. The most competitive producing areas are in northern France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland. The EU also has an important refining industry that processes imported raw cane sugar.

EU sugar policy

Sugar is part of the common market organisation (CMO) between EU countries, which has several functions including providing a safety net to agricultural markets, cooperation through producer organisation and inter-branch organisations, and laying down minimum quality requirements.

Beet farmers can get income support in the form of direct payments that are largely decoupled. EU countries have also the possibility to grant voluntary coupled support to specific sectors in difficulty – including sugar beet and sugar cane production. Eleven EU countries have decided to grant voluntary coupled support for sugar beet producers.

EU sugar market policy focuses on two main areas: market measures and trade measures.

Market measures within the EU

The EU can support the sugar sector with specific market measures, in particular private storage aid, measures against market disturbance and measures to solve specific problems.

Private storage aid is granted when taking into account average recorded Union market prices, the reference thresholds and production costs. The European Commission may grant this aid in the case of a particularly difficult market situation or economic development having a significant negative impact on the margins of the sector in order to keep a certain volume of sugar out of the market during a certain period. The CMO rules foresee additional support measures in case of severe market disturbances due to sharp increase or decrease in prices, amongst others.

Trade with countries outside the EU

Trade policy is an exclusive power of the European Union – so only the EU, and not individual EU countries, can legislate on trade matters and conclude international trade agreements. International trade is also governed by rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

As a major importer of cane sugar, the EU grants duty-free access to the EU market to developing countries under the "Everything But Arms" (EBA) agreement and Economic Partnership Agreements with the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

Related information

Trade policy

World Trade Organisation

"Everything But Arms" agreement

Economic Partnership Agreements

Legal basis

Legal basis on sugar includes legislation on the common market organisation for agricultural products, quotas, imports and exports and other sugar legislation in force.

Basic regulation

EU Council regulation 1308/1213 – establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products

Key implementing legislation for sugar

Notifications to the Commission of information and documents

EU delegated regulation 2017/1183

EU implementing regulation 2017/1185

Imports

EU regulation 828/2009 – opening and providing for the administration of certain Community tariff quotas in the sugar sector

EU regulation 1301/2006 – laying down common rules for the administration of import tariff quotas for agricultural products managed by a system of import licences

Exports

EU regulation 951/2006 – detailed rules regarding trade with third countries in the sugar sector

Sugar quality

Council directive 2001/111/EC relating to certain sugars intended for human consumption

Related information

List of sugar legislation in force

Market monitoring

The European Sugar Market Observatory provides a diversity of data and information on sugar, including balance sheets, market situation, short and medium term outlook, and the sugar market observatory meeting reports.

Committees

To ensure that the European Commission's responsibility for adopting implementing acts is exercised under the control of EU countries, various committees – composed of government representatives and chaired by a Commission representative – are attached to the Commission.

The committee for the common organisation of the agricultural markets meets regularly to discuss areas such as the evolution of market prices, production and trade in the EU and third countries.

High-level group

On 19 November 2018, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development announced the establishment of a High-Level Expert Group on Sugar (HLG) at the AGRI-FISH Council meeting.

The mandate of the HLG was twofold

  1. to discuss the current market situation as well as EU countries' and stakeholders' concerns about the EU sugar market.
  2. to explore and evaluate possible solutions and policy measures as regards their effectiveness and suitability to tackle the problems identified.

The Director-General for Agriculture and Rural Development chaired the HLG, composed by representatives of all EU countries. The HLG held three meetings between January and June 2019.

Meetings

DownloadZIP - 2.1 MB

DownloadZIP - 7.7 MB

DownloadZIP - 1.4 MB

Final report

The report summarises the work carried out by the HLG, it highlights the main issues identified, synthesises the main positions of EU countries, evaluates possible solutions and recommends a set of actions, from which the sector may benefit in the short and mid-term. The final report was discussed in the AGRI-FISH Council of 15 July 2019.

DownloadPDF - 1.4 MB