Beeting down the prices

Sugar Policy Reform in the European Union and in World Sugar Markets

©M. Bury/CEDUS

Can cutting down on sugar subsidies lead to healthier trade competition and trimmer prices? The 2005 European Union market reforms aim to thin EU farmers’ sugar subsidies and cut out obsolete sugar mills. Sugar Policy Reform in the European Union and in World Sugar Markets maps out how this might work.

The historic volatility of sugar prices matches the spiky history of the commodity. Once reserved for the rich, and equal in value to musk, pearls and spices, today this kitchen staple can be vilified by health enthusiasts just as it is embraced by top chefs. And it has recently found new supporters and detractors because of its role in making biofuels.

Sugar is certainly one of the most policy-distorted of all agricultural commodities, with high levels of protection of national sugar industries in OECD countries dating from the 1950s. So in 2005, when EU ministers agreed to radically reform the Common Market Organisation for sugar, there were mixed reactions from the industry, notably in Europe. The EU is currently the world’s third largest sugar producer, after Brazil and India, and ranks second in sugar consumption just after India. Three major producers–France, Germany and Poland–collectively account for more than half of the EU’s sugar output.

Sugar might not be the most expensive item in a shopping basket, but by maintaining high tariffs on imports, sugar subsidies have jacked the price in these countries up to three times the international market price. This ratchets up prices of other food produce as well. The EU reform will cut domestic support prices by 36%, from 631.9 per tonne today to 404.4 per tonne by 2010. It also calls for reduced quotas and a voluntary restructuring scheme that has already resulted in consolidation and closures of some of the EU’s surplus sugar producers and sugar beet growers. Rory J. Clarke, Alison Benney

ISBN 9789264040205

Forthcoming: OECD (2008), Agricultural Support, Farm Land Values and Sectoral Adjustment: The Implications for Policy Reform.

©OECD Observer No 266 March 2008




Economic data

GDP growth: +0.5% Q3 2018 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.9% Sept 2018 annual
Trade: +2.7% exp, +3.0% imp, Q4 2017
Unemployment: 5.2% Sept 2018
Last update: 22 Nov 2018

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Food production will suffer some of the most immediate and brutal effects of climate change, with some regions of the world suffering far more than others. Only through unhindered global trade can we ensure that high-quality, nutritious food reaches those who need it most, Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the OECD, and José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, write in their latest Project Syndicate article. Read the article here.
  • Globalisation will continue and get stronger, and how to harness it is the great challenge, says OECD Secretary-General Gurría on Bloomberg TV. Watch the interview here.
  • OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría with UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, in New York City.
  • The new OECD Observer Crossword, with Myles Mellor. Try it online!
  • Watch the webcast of the final press conference of the OECD annual ministerial meeting 2018.
  • Listen to the "Robots are coming for our jobs" episode of The Guardian's "Chips with Everything podcast", in which The Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, and Jeremy Wyatt, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Birmingham, and Jordan Erica Webber, freelance journalist, discuss the findings of the new OECD report "Automation, skills use and training". Listen here.
  • Do we really know the difference between right and wrong? Alison Taylor of BSR and Susan Hawley of Corruption Watch tell us why it matters to play by the rules. Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview here.
  • Has public decision-making been hijacked by a privileged few? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Stav Shaffir, MK (Zionist Union) Chair of the Knesset Committee on Transparency here.
  • Can a nudge help us make more ethical decisions? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Saugatto Datta, managing director at ideas42 here.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
  • Rousseau
  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2018