Greece among minority of EU states hostile to sugar regime reforms

EU governments dug in their heels yesterday over a radical plan to overhaul sugar policy, as a significant camp of anti-reform states joined forces to oppose drastic cuts that farmers say will put them out of business. Thousands of angry beet-growers from across the European Union descended on Brussels to protest outside the meeting of EU farm ministers who were holding their first full-scale debate on sugar reform. They are not due to reach a deal until November. The ministers were debating a plan calling for steep cuts to beet and sugar prices, and production quotas. It also offers compensation for farmers and factories hit by lower revenues. Even though some skeptical states have begun to identify areas of compromise, opposition to the plan is clear – particularly from southern countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece, whose less efficient producers would be hit by the cuts. «Italy has clearly said it’s unacceptable, as has Poland. Maybe they can be bought off in some way… but the blocking group of countries is still the same, and they’ve reinforced it,» one EU official told reporters. Agriculture Minister Evangelos Bassiakos told reporters in Brussels that the government «radically disagrees» with the Commission proposal, adding that any reform should guarantee the income of beet growers and allow for sugar to be produced throughout the EU. Bassiakos said that the proposal to cut the price of white sugar by 39.6 percent and that of sugar beet by 42.6 percent was unacceptable and called for a «regulation» of sugar imports from outside the EU. (Reuters/Kathimerini)

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