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Belize among regional sugar producers disenfranchised on the CARICOM market

The movement of sugar in the CARICOM market continues to disenfranchise regional sugar producers. That is what a press release issued today by the Sugar Association of the Caribbean, SAC, is saying. SAC says that the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, CSME, is quote, “simply not working for the regional sugar industry when the need is most critical,” end of quote. The association has been gathering market intelligence within the region and has found that quote, “more than two-thirds of CARICOM sugar demand is currently being supplied by extra regional sugar imports …(and)…is permitted to enter the CARICOM market duty free,” end of quote. Additionally, SAC’s study found that the current Common External Tariff, CET, policy is affecting the sale of brown sugar that is produced in the region. In its release, SAC states that this has become evident in recent months as market opportunities in CARICOM, value and quantity, is rapidly shrinking. This means that Belize is one of those producers being affected and the situation poses more challenges for the sugar industry as stakeholders are attempting to access the CARICOM market. Communications and Government Affairs representative for ASR/BSI, William Neal, says it is a worrisome situation given that regional producers annually produce more sugar than the total regional demand.

William Neal Communications/ Gov’t Affairs Representative, ASR/BSI: “What we see happening according to our market intelligence is that sugar coming into the region from places like Guatemala and Colombia are being bought and displacing the real market opportunity for CARICOM producers such as Belize, Jamaica, Guyana and Barbados. People are instead of buying our sugar they are choosing the other ex original sugars because it is cheaper and under the revised Treaty of Chalderamos that should not be allowed but it is happening because there there is not an effective monitoring mechanism to ensure that people are buying what they say they truly need. It is not produced in the region and we produce brown sugar so that should never under no circumstances come in unless it pays the common external tariff of 40%. That would level the playing field for our original producers and make sure that we have a competitive, not an edge but we are able to compete in our market. We definitely need to hold everybody accountable and to make sure that the rules and policies are enforced. Obviously there is a lot of advocacy that needs to happen within CARICOM. This is a work in progress and as a member of SAC the Sugar Association of the Caribbean we have to remain engaged and we have to make sure that all the rights guaranteed under the treaty of Chladeramos are afforded to any producer in the region.”

SAC has consistently advocated for changes to the current CET policy in order to mitigate this practice. The Association states that the, quote, “blatant disregard for CET rules is now a distinct challenge to the survival of the CARICOM sugar industry, which supports the livelihoods of more than 400 thousand CARICOM citizens,” unquote.