Overproduced, oversubsidised and very thirsty | WWF

Overproduced, oversubsidised and very thirsty

Overproduced, oversubsidised and very thirsty

Sugar production
Sugar is a product that most of us consume on a daily basis; indeed it is so common that most people do not give a second thought to where or how it is produced and with what consequences.

About 145 million tonnes of sugar (sucrose) is produced in 121 countries each year. Of this 60 - 70% is produced from sugar cane with the remainder coming from sugar beet.

Environmental impacts
Sugar production today - whether from cane or beet - has a wide range of negative impacts on soil, water and air, including in parts of the world that conservation organisations, such as WWF, have identified as globally important. The Great Barrier Reef off Australia's coast, which suffers from effluents and sediment from sugar farms, is one such case.

River Basin impacts
Sugar is one of the most 'thirsty' crops in several large river basins, (see report Agricultural Water Use and River Basin Conservation, PDF: 1.70 MB) including the Niger River in West Africa, the Zambezi in Southern Africa, the Indus River in Pakistan, the Mekong River in SE Asia, and the Konya Basin in Turkey.

Unfair subsidies
The EU Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) and measures of the US Farm Bill encourage over-production of sugar in rich countries and dumping of subsidised sugar on the world market. By lowering the world price and allowing unfair competition, these schemes undermine livelihoods and environmental standards in poor countries.

The EU's Sugar Regime needs radical overhaul. WWF is calling for changes that will mean:

  • European production being cut by about 8 million tonnes;
  • Preferential access being granted to environmentally sustainable sugar from developing countries;
  • CAP money being used to finance development aid packages linked to mitigating impacts and raising environmental and labour standards in developing countries' sugar industries.

A World Trade Organisation (WTO) panel recently ruled that the EU is illegally dumping millions of tonnes of subsidised sugar on world markets, increasing the pressure for change in Europe.

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