EU finance ministers have backed changes to sugar reforms first launched last year to cut production.

The European Commission said sugar processors had renounced less of their quotas than had been anticipated, meaning a further stage of reform was vital.

The Commission said the amount of aid given to growers would remain fixed but an additional payment would go to growers who decided to renounce their quota.

The Commission said the changes should see the renunciation of about 3.8m tonnes of sugar quota on top of the 2.2m tonnes given up so far. However, the EU’s executive arm warned that compulsory quota cuts were in the pipeline should not enough sugar was renounced.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said: “It is a key element of our reform, offering financial incentives to factories which can’t compete at the new lower prices. The changes agreed today will encourage many more companies to give up quota.”

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She added: “I urge them to take this chance. As the price falls, life will get tougher. And after 2010, there won’t be any money to help producers who have to bow out.”