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Tate & Lyle Sugars takes battle against EU to court

By Nathan Gray , 17-Jan-2013
Last updated on 17-Jan-2013 at 13:09 GMT

The European Commission are accused of mismanaging the European sugar market, resulting in damage to EU cane sugar refiners.
The European Commission are accused of mismanaging the European sugar market, resulting in damage to EU cane sugar refiners.

Sugar refiner Tate & Lyle Sugars will take its fight against the European Commission for alleged mismanagement of the European sugar market to court today. 

The UK-based cane refiner, along with its Portuguese subsidiary Sidul Acucares, Unipessoal Lda, filed the complaint against the regulator after claiming that due to EU sugar policy mismanagement its refinery is not at full capacity – placing upward pressure on pricing.

The complaint focuses on the European Commission’s management of the European sugar market during spring and early summer 2012. The firm claims that high global sugar prices in recent years have made it hard to secure affordable imports of raw cane, and blames EU import restrictions and customs duties for aggravating the problem and forcing refineries to reduce production.

The companies argue that EU mismanagement has led to discrimination against cane refiners and sugar prices – which are currently around 80% higher than world levels – causing considerable harm to European consumers, food manufacturers and cane refiners.

Today representatives for the firms will argue before the General Court of the European Union for access to justice under the Lisbon Treaty.

“We are relying on the Court to set a precedent by recognising that this case, and the two others that we have so far lodged against the Commission, really are about decisions made in Brussels and Brussels alone and how those decisions undermine jobs, consumers and competition in Europe’s sugar market,” said Tate & Lyle Sugars president Ian Bacon.

Day in court

Bacon suggests that the hearing could represent an important landmark in determining whether the 2009 Lisbon Treaty effectively provides improved access to justice against EU acts, the adoption of which lies entirely in the hands of the Commission. 

“The Commission argument that we should be denied justice because it is actually Member States who have taken the detailed market management decisions that have destroyed jobs, caused EU sugar prices to sky-rocket and which so clearly discriminated between operators in the sugar market is obviously nonsense,” Bacon said.

A Tate & Lyle Sugars statement notes that the decisions being challenged in were taken by the Commission under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Although Member States and the European Parliament have a clear role to play in determining this policy, once it is agreed, its implementation is solely the responsibility of the Commission, it argues.

“Member State authorities do nothing more than police the rules.”

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