Mud sticks. That is why, on 3 July 2017, you – CEFS, CIBE, ePURE & EFFAT – jointly wrote a passionate and emotive defence of your sector that was based on fake, misleading and unsubstantiated alternative “facts”.
You know that we, as European cane sugar refiners, depend on access to raw cane sugar from countries like Brazil as our raw material. It allows us to operate our factories in Europe, provide 4,000 direct good quality jobs, and ensure consumers get choice, competition and innovation in a sector that you, as a handful of sugar beet producers, would otherwise dominate whilst hidden behind the world’s largest sugar tariff wall.
You see European cane refiners fighting for our lives. Not because we are inefficient or uncompetitive. But because you as EU beet sugar producers have hijacked the policy debate to ensure you are deregulated in 2017 and, further, benefit from over €170 million per year of coupled support. All the while hidden behind a tariff wall equivalent to over 100%, protecting you from 95% of the global trade in cane sugar. Whilst ensuring we stay heavily regulated, strangling us of access to raw material, pushing our costs up, by making fake arguments about our suppliers. You see an expedient opportunity to put our industry to the sword.
You have picked on Mercosur and, particularly, Brazil. But you should know that those that live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. You will understand that Brazilian cane sugar farmers get not a Real from their government in direct cash support in most years. You will also know that the cash they are able to borrow to help them re-plant cane and develop their sector, accepting that some of it is at preferential interest rates, is repayable. You will also know that the ethanol sector you claim cross-subsidises their sugar production is no different to the sector you benefit from and participate in that has developed as a direct result of similar EU policies.
Nobody is arguing that agricultural markets aren’t distorted around the world, but the argument you put forward is simply fake. And it fails to balance the support you claim Brazilian farmers get with the other side of the coin – the deep and powerful direct and indirect support you lobby EU institutions so hard to get and protect.
You simply don’t say how your spurious claim of $1.8 billion is sourced or calculated. We can only speculate on where it comes from. You should be open and share your analysis. We can then, as equal partners in the EU sugar sector, have a grown-up and sensible debate about the facts.
But it is not just about us as cane refiners. The worst excess of your fake argument is that it puts at risk the whole EU-Mercosur trade discussions. At a time when the EU and, particularly, the Commission are taking a leading role in piecing back together a broken international trade agenda, you do a great disservice to your fellow EU citizens. You know that Mercosur and Brazil, as the world’s largest cane sugar exporter, simply cannot accept a deal without some access to the EU sugar market. It needn’t be full access. We are not asking for the EU market to be flooded by Brazilian sugar. Even we accept it will be constrained by quotas. But your fake claims and alternative facts, designed to piggy-back on the real concerns policy-makers have vulnerable sectors such as beef, risk that deal.
Our message to you is that you are competitive. You’re fit. There are farming sectors in the EU that need protection but you’re not one of them. Get out there and be confident. Put your energy in to becoming even more competitive and innovative. Life is too short to waste your energy fighting an imaginary enemy. Especially when it would wreck the chance of an EU-Mercosur deal that would benefit 508 million EU citizens. Citizens that, you should not forget, are also your customers.