The European Union said that an independent report it has commissioned to help it share the future of its sugar market will be available next summer.

"We receive our external report sometime next year and we expect to publish that in the summer, sometime after the enlargement negotiations," said Russell Mildon, Director of Crop Products at the European Commission at an F.O. Licht sugar conference. The publication of the report will mark the beginning of a period of decision-making expected to last approximately 12 months.

Brazil and Australia recently filed complaints with the World Trade Organisation, alleging that preferential price agreements with certain countries is forcing producers in other regions into poverty. Mildon commented that any challenges by third parties would inevitably delay reform.

The EU had warned Fiji and other countries that benefit from a special subsidy agreement to prepare for the end of this preferential arrangement (just-food.com members click here for an earlier story). The EU claims it is gradually reducing import barriers.

The new report that has been commissioned will address the impact of ten countries, mostly former communist states and collectively a net sugar exporting group, that are due to join the EU in 2004, Mildon told the conference. Analysts say this group have combined sugar output of 3.2m tonnes a year, with consumption of 2.9m. This compares with current EU output of 16.8m tonnes and consumption of 13.9m, reported Reuters.

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