28 Nov 2005

Commonwealth heads urge EU to give more help to sugar producing nations

7:09 am on 28 November 2005

The European Union has been urged to provide transitional financial arrangements to Commonwealth countries, such as Fiji, that will suffer major financial setbacks as a result of the reduction in sugar prices, .

At the end of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta, leaders issued a statement calling on

the EU to take responsibility for any compensation due to countries that sell sugar to Europe under preferential arrangements.

The statement mentioned the vulnerabilities of small island states as they adjust to the withdrawal of special arrangements.

At a recent meeting of African, Caribbean and Pacific nations in Kenya, officials were told that a planned 39 percent reduction in sugar prices for the 18 members would result in a loss of up to 351 million US dollars per annum in direct export earnings.

Such a loss in revenue would threaten the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people.

Fiji's Foreign Affairs Minister, Kaliopate Tavola, said the European Union's offer of assistance was welcome.

But he said more resources needed to be made available up front to enable those nations to continue to adapt and reform, and to combat poverty in the medium and long term.