Ian Hudghton MEP raises Malawi sugar cane issue in EU

26 Mar 2015
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On the 9th March the SMP wrote to Scotland’s six MEPs raising concerns about forthcoming changes to the EU sugar cane subsidies which Malawian small-holder sugarcane farmer Charles Chavi raised as a point of concern when speaking at an SMP Fairtrade Fortnight lunch. 

The following week we received detailed responses from two Labour MEPs: David Martin MEP and Catherine Stihler MEP. David and Catherine who both took this issue extremely seriously and committed to continuing to represent the views of SMP members in the European Parliament.

We are delighted to now report that we have today received the below reply from Ian Hudghton MEP (SNP):

“Thank you for your recent email regarding the role of the European Union in supporting sugar cane farmers.

“The reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) involves the removal of the limit on the amount of sugar that can be grown within the European Union. This change is effective from October 2017, but is already having an effect on the global market. The price of sugar has already dropped significantly and this subsequently has an effect on sugar cane suppliers in African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and Least Developed Countries, many of which are family farmers that are reliant on sugar cane for their income. Furthermore, there are consequential effects that the trade preferential treatment status granted to nations that grow sugar cane will be affected. 

“I share the concerns written in your message. As an SNP MEP I am aligned to the Greens/EFA political grouping in the European Parliament, and I am supportive of the action taken by my group colleagues belonging to the Parliament's Development Committee that have tabled an Oral question to the European Commission specifically on the topic of sugar cane farmers in developing countries. The question will be presented at the next Development Committee meeting on the 31st March 2015. A copy of the question that will be asked can be read below -

"In the context of the Common Agricultural Policy reform, sugar quotas will be lifted by October 2017. Already now this is having an effect on the global market with the sugar price having dropped in such a way that the sale of sugar can from African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) and Least Developed Countries (LDC) is increasingly being endangered. Sugar cane supplied to the EU often comes from smallholder and family farmers in developing countries, who are reliant on sugar cane for their income. The Accompanying Measures for Sugar Protocol countries have so far not sufficiently responded to the needs of these affected communities. 

• In the light of the above, what can the EU do in the framework of its development cooperation (Development Cooperation Instrument, European Development Fund) to support smallholder farmers in affected countries to diversify their economies and to create alternative sources of income? 

• The EU has been encouraging smallholder farmers from ACP and LDC countries to grow sugar cane for exports. However, economies of small and LDCs remain heavily dependent on sugar production, thereby making them particularly vulnerable to sugar price volatility. What reform of the trade policy would the Commissioner be ready to support to ensure that trade preferential treatment and duty-free market access granted to ACP countries and LDCs do effectively lead to a diversification of their economies? Which steps is the Commissioner taking to support diversification within the sugar sector in the respective countries through value-addition?"

“I thank you again for bringing this matter to my attention. I will continue to monitor developments on this issue as they develop.”

We are extremely grateful to Ian Hudghton MEP, David Martin MEP and Catherine Stihler MEP for their strong commitment on this issue. It is all credit to the strength and vitality of Scotland’s links with Malawi, and the responsiveness of our elected representatives, that within a month of these issues being raised by a Malawian small-holder farmer at an SMP lunch, we have the matter formally raised in the European Parliament.

We do not take for granted the all-party support Scotland’s links with Malawi continue to enjoy.

Charles Chavi said: 
“This is a welcome development for us. The farmers are very happy. We’re absolutely delighted that within a short period there has been notable progress already. On behalf of the farmers I would like to thank the Scotland Malawi Partnership for your commitment and continued support.”