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EU farmers are ramping up production of sugar beet this year when they will be freed at last to grow as much as they want and sell it globally, after a decade of strict output quotas and export limits.
Farmers have started drilling the first post-quota crop this month in several EU member states, including top EU producer France where planting is expected to increase by 20 percent, in line with an expected rise across the bloc.
Their return to global means European producers will compete for business with emerging beet sugar exporters like Russia and Ukraine, as well as refiners that import cane to make white sugar, such as the United Arab Emirates.
But it also means farmers now face the sort of risk they have not seen for years - exposure to prices that can go down as well as up. After rallying to a four-year high in September, benchmark ICE white sugar futures have slumped more than 17 percent, touching their weakest in over nine months last week.
"We are bound to see price volatility but that's something we face in other crops as well. This is part of a farmer's job these days. It's up to us to find ways of withstanding it," said Alexandre Pele, whose family has grown sugar beet on a farm 60km south of Paris for more than a century.
EU farmers say they are now ready to compete globally after the sector was thoroughly restructured, following a 2005 ruling by the World Trade Organization that the EU unfairly subsidized its sugar producers, which led to a sharp cutback of exports. Reuters