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August 12, 2011

EU: R&R Ice Cream chief Lambert demands action over sugar prices

The chief executive of one of Europe's largest ice cream makers has called on the EU to help the food sector deal with the "spiralling cost" of sugar.

By Dean Best

The chief executive of one of Europe’s largest ice cream makers has called on the EU to help the food sector deal with the “spiralling cost” of sugar.

James Lambert, chief executive of UK-based R&R Ice Cream, wants Brussels to take action to cut sugar prices. The company claimed sugar prices in the UK are 60% higher than a year ago.

Lambert said over 80 sugar factories have closed across Europe since 2004, which had hit supply. He claimed the EU had moved from being one of the world’s largest exporters of sugar to one of the largest importers.

“The price is increasing virtually daily and we have to get some stability back into the market,” Lambert said today (12 August). “These dramatic price increases have been caused by our politicians acting against consumers’ interests and we are urging the EU to either increase quotas and/or allow food manufacturers to import sugar tariff free from the world market.”

Lambert, who runs a company with operations in France and Germany as well as the UK, acknowledged that the “severe” weather last winter had hit crops but insisted an increase in quota or the removal of tariffs were needed.

“In order to have a stable, efficient and economically viable sugar industry, the EU needs to increase quota to meet consumption levels. There is currently no quota left to purchase in the UK and R&R needs sugar to meet production needs in 2012.”

He added: “The other option is to buy our sugar on the world market but this currently attracts duty of EUR417 (US$558) per tonne so bringing the total price to nearly EUR1,000. The tariffs on buying this sugar need to be removed. We are not alone – many other food and drink manufacturers are facing similar dramatic price hikes and urgent action is needed.”

A spokesman for the European Commission said poor weather in some sugar-producing countries, including Brazil, had hit supplies and pushed up global prices. The spike meant global prices had moved above the EU price of sugar and had led to refiners outside the EU selling their sugar elsewhere, hitting stocks.

“This is very much a one-off problem. This is the first time ever that EU prices are below market prices,” the spokesman said. “We are aware of the problem and we have done of a number of different things but the problem is more global.”

In March, for example, just-food reported that the EU had announced plans to allow 300,000 tonnes of sugar and 400,000 tonnes of industrial sugar to be imported into the bloc duty free to help combat high prices and short supplies. It also approved the release into EU markets of 500,000 tonnes of EU-produced sugar and 26,000 tonnes of isoglucose that was in storage.

The spokesman said the Commission had made similar moves in June and July and said the difference between EU prices for sugar and world prices were “narrowing”.

“We hope this will help reduce the cost of sugar for the food industry,” he added.

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