•Today in the European Parliament, UKIP MEP and farmer Stuart Agnew lambasted EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş over the EU sugar quota system that is crippling the Tate and Lyle sugar factory in London with 850 jobs at stake.
The American owners of Tate and Lyle Sugars may be forced to close its London factory because of EU tariffs on sugar imports.
There is a lot of sugar in the world the company could buy, but the EU tariff regime prevents them from buying this sugar economically, and the tarriff-free cane quota is far too small for Tate and Lyle.
"It [Tate and Lyle] needs more tariff-free raw material," Stuart Agnew told Commissioner Ciolos. "It's got to have that to keep its refinery supplied. At the moment it's slowing down; its closing at weekends, its losing its critical mass and it means the costs of refining are becoming uncompetitive and the factory is going to close and you, actually, are the one person in the world who can keep it open. The beneficiaries of your proposal will be the sugar beet industries in France and Germany - not in Britain - because in Britain, we obeyed EU laws and we closed factories three years ago, and those factories cannot be rebuilt by 2015."
In his reply, the EU Commissioner blamed private company stategy, failing to acknowledge that EU quotas were the instruments changing the supply and price landscape.
UKIP MEP for England East, Stuart Agnew
"Commissioner, [...] ...now, the other point - we've already been talking about it - but I want to bring your proposals much closer to home, because one of your proposals is going to destroy up to 850 jobs in the UK and it will actually transfer them to other EU countries - most unfair - and I'm talking about proposals to cease quotas for sugar beet production by 2015, because this won't be matched by a relaxed quota or the cane sugar refiners, represented in my country by Tate Lyle. That firm has been a strong player in the UK sugar market all my life; and long before we joined the European Union. It needs more tariff free raw material. It's got to have that to keep its refinery supplied. At the moment it's slowing down; its closing at weekends, its losing its critical mass and it means the costs of refining are becoming uncompetitive and the factory is going to close and you, actually, are the one person in the world who can keep it open. The beneficiaries of your proposal will be the sugar beet industries in France and Germany - not in Britain - because in Britain, we obeyed EU laws and we closed factories three years ago, and those factories cannot be rebuilt by 2015. Tate Lyle have asked you to visit them, to come to that factory in London and see for yourself how efficient they are, but as yet, as I understand, you haven't answered their invitation. I have written to you on this subject and I haven't had a reply as yet. It would appear you are completely indifferent to the situation, which I think is scandalous because the UK is one of the few countries in the EU which is a net contributor, those contributions come from taxpayers. Employees of Tate Lyle are taxpayers have peen pumping money into the EU and this is how they're being repaid. Thank you."
Reply by Dacian Cioloş - Commissioner for agriculture and rural development
"Mr. Agnew, [...] ...now, on quotas, if I'm correct, what you're saying is: 'why are we getting rid of quotas. I'd understood that the UK wanted us to keep quotas. Now, Tate and Lyle, because you referred to them. A few years ago, after the reform of our sugar policy, they decided to close down certain companies but to develop their production capacity because they were betting on more importing of unrefined sugar - more than they are now. But that was their business strategy - it has nothing to do with the European Commission. It's not our problem if a private company decided a few years ago to improve its production capacity because basically they betted on a certain situation and then they can't come and point their finger at the commissioners saying that we are responsible for them having to lay people off. What the European Commission has done is to suggest the elimination of quotas so that the sugar market can be as open as possible, but that's about business strategy. It's not the European Commission's fault. And then you said I had been indifferent. If I were open to all the requests of companies which want me to come and visit them and want to discuss their private business strategies, then I wouldn't have time to deal with the CAP which is a public policy. So, this is what I have to say. You know that I have always been open to listening to the problems that you raise, but I think that we have to make sure that there is certain coherence in what we are asking for.
Tate and Lyle spokesman Tony Bennett said in London:
"The answer is the predictable one he and his officials give - that their forecasts of cane imports doubling were only that and you cannot hold them to it if they were not subsequently correct. The bit they conveniently miss is that their whole policy was based on this forecast and, in particular, the abolishing of our import quota (the right we had to import cane sugar to run our factory). Their logic was that, with imports doubling, there would be no need any more for an import quota as there would be plenty enough sugar for everybody in Europe who wanted to refine."