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AfricaMoney | August 23, 2017

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No longer sugar-sweet? Relations sour as Mauritian President criticises EU

No longer sugar-sweet? Relations sour as Mauritian President criticises EU

President Rajkeswur Purryag said that the European Union (EU) seems to have forgotten that the ACP sugar-producing countries have supplied it sugar for several decades. (Image: Right News)

Mauritius President Rajkeswur Purryag has severely criticized the plan by the EU to abolish the ACP sugar quota regime by 2017.

Attending the centenary celebration of the Cooperative Society ‘Médine Camp de Masque’ at ‘Mont Ida’, the President said that the European Union (EU) seems to have forgotten that the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) sugar-producing countries have supplied it sugar for several decades.

“First, the EU reduced the price of sugar by 36% but we did not die of hunger in this country. Now, it wants to abolish the sugar quota regime altogether in 2017. We will not beg – we just want more time to complete the reform of our industry that we started some years back,” he said.

President Rajkeswur Purryag expressed the belief that the EU was not honoring its commitment towards the ACP countries.

According to him, the EU is biased towards new member-countries of the Union coming from Eastern Europe.

“Why do you think the British brought Indian immigrants to Mauritius, Fiji and Surinam? To cultivate sugar cane because this product has not only a good economic value but also because there is not enough production in Europe,” he said.

He also asked the EU to reconsider its decision to abolish the sugar quota regime by 2017 as it will entail an overproduction of sugar in Europe and a drastic fall in sugar prices.

On a related front, the government is putting in all efforts into complying with its commitments to the European Commission on the production of energy and ethanol within the framework of the program of General Budget Support for economic reforms.

If this key performance indicator (KPI) is not reached, there is a real possibility that the EU will retract financial support to the island economy.

This places Mauritius at serious risk of being deprived of financial assistance of Rs 600 million (Euros 14 million) if the EU decides that there has been negligence on the part of Mauritius.

The issue was raised during discussions with stakeholders and relevant ministries have been informed of the situation by the Ministry of Finance for coordinating the necessary steps be taken as soon as possible.

One of the concerned KPIs is blending ethanol (E 20), a by-product of sugar cane, to be used for fuel requirements. During discussions on the economic reform program, a work schedule was established for the project of blending ethanol with the aim of gradually reducing the import bill for vehicle fuel needs.

However, it seems that, despite declarations of intent about developing clean energy or renewable energy sources, the project has not taken off.

Also, developments on the CT Power project in Pointe-aux-Caves in Albion are likely to run afoul of the EU, which had called for the launch of a tender exercise for the project.

Accordingly, on Friday, a decision was taken by the Council of Ministers to give Foreign Minister Arvin Boolell the responsibility of bringing all stakeholders of the sugar industry together to develop a plan for the reorientation and consolidation of sugar industry reforms.

The Foreign Minister is expected to chair a working session today with all industry partners to conduct an assessment of the situation in 2017 once the sugar quota is dismantled and set priorities in the industry for an acceleration of the reform process.

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