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The Sugar Association of the Caribbean (SAC) has registered its concerns about continued undermining of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) for sugar.
The body met last month and in a statement said the despite the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) agreement in 2019 to tighten compliance with the Common External Tariff (CET) and the systems that govern it, individual companies continue to over-estimate their requirements for imported extra regional, CET-free sugar.
According to SAC in November 2019, COTED mandated the Community to introduce a monitoring mechanism to tighten control of sugar imports. So far, this has not materialised. In recent months, exaggerated requests for CET waivers under the safeguard mechanism indicate scant regard has been paid to the political sentiments expressed by COTED. In one recent case, a single manufacturer has sought permission to import around half of their country’s national annual demand.
The situation regarding extra regional imports of brown sugar in contravention of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas rules has resulted in a legal challenge by Belize in the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), a move that SAC and its members have supported.
SAC Chairman R. Karl James said, “Sugar industries across the Caribbean are investing to meet regional demand for sugar. It is imperative the regulatory system to support CARICOM businesses steps up to incentivise that investment. This will lead to improved regional food security and a resurgent agro economy in the Caribbean – never more important than now facing the impacts of COVID-19 – while supporting hundreds of thousands of Caribbean livelihoods. It is ridiculous to import most of our sugar from outside the region, when Caribbean sugar is under-utilised at home”.
SAC announced that regional production for 2021 is likely to exceed 400,000 Metric Tons (MT) of sugar, far in excess of total regional demand of 280,000 MT. Yet traditionally only a quarter of this is utilised in the region. Sugar industries are investing to ensure that high quality, food-grade sugar is available for Caribbean products and to ensure that the regulatory mechanisms designed to support Caribbean business work for sugar as they do for other products.