The 49th Regular Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), convened in Georgetown, Guyana from November 17-18, 2019.

On its agenda was the discussion and decision for the establishment of an Integrated Sugar Market that would seek to balance the interests of both regional producers and manufacturers.

Belize’s head of delegation was the Hon. Tracy Taegar-Panton, Minister of State with responsibility for Investment, Trade and Commerce. Minister Panton was accompanied by Senator Hon. Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General; Mr. Duane Belisle, Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Commerce; Mr. Andy Sutherland, Director General for Foreign Trade; and Mr. Richard Reid, Senior Trade Economist. Representatives from the American Sugar Refinery/Belize Sugar Industries Ltd. (ASR-BSI Group) and Santander Sugar Ltd. were also included in the Belize delegation.

Robust discussions between sugar-producing states and manufacturers from other CARICOM states were informed by the recently completed regional study on the Substitutability of Plantation White Sugar for Refined Sugar. The conclusion of that study firmly validated that:

“through consultations, research and the presentation of case studies that Plantation White Sugar (PW) can be, and is being used across the industrial food and beverage sectors, regionally and internationally either as direct consumption sugar or with some additional treatment to meet, in particular, colour requirements for the carbonated beverage industry.”

The discussions and decisions taken at the 49th Regular Meeting of the COTED with respect to sugar were favourable to regional producers. In summary, the COTED approved the following for Belize:

  1. A monitoring mechanism for all sugars to determine the match of availability and demand requirements to ensure support to regional production of sugar must be urgently implemented, and that the CARICOM Secretariat must develop the necessary Terms of Reference and initiate the process before the end of 2019.
  2. Reiterated that where there is regional production in the quantity and specifications requested by member states, the protection of the common external tariff (CET) shall remain for the quantities available within the region in accordance with the provisions of the revised treaty.
  3. Reiterated the Community policy that, where regional production meets or exceeds 75% of regional demand, a protective tariff would be applied to the product in question.

It was also agreed that:

(i) Member states must comply with their existing obligations by applying the CET to all brown sugar entering the CARICOM Single Market;

(ii) renewed attention would be paid to the proposals made by the sugar industry for the reform of the CET as it applies to refined sugar while due attention is paid to the interests of sugar-using; and

(iii) there is need for additional investment in the sector.

This decision now provides the security required by the private sector to invest further in the industry, to upgrade production facilities and produce higher qualities of sugar and to expand output, with the assurance of a CARICOM market that will be protected from subsidized sugar from other sources. The sugar industry of Belize has contributed heavily to this regional effort and can now feel confident that the road is now clear for additional investments in this important sector.