More than three hundred years later, Europe is set to deliver a crippling blow to a trade that once made up almost a fifth of its entire imports, and has sustained Guyanese sugar cane farmers since.
The European Union’s decision to remove limits on its own beet-sugar output from October means less demand for cane growers from Guyana and the Caribbean, to the Pacific island of Fiji, and Swaziland in southern Africa.
“Within a decade or so, I can see the EU market for raw sugar from the Caribbean being all but a matter of history,” said David Jessop, an adviser to companies and governments on trade and investment in the region. “The challenge from the Caribbean perspective is what they can do, if anything, to ensure the future of their industry.”
Jamaica, Belize and Guyana were among a group of more than 10 nations that benefited from quota- and duty-free access for 1.6 million metric tons of mostly raw-sugar shipments to the EU in 2015-16. The amount, which can vary year-by-year, represented about half the European bloc’s imports of the commodity.
While the Guyana will retain its privileges, their high-cost cane plantations may struggle to compete against EU beet farmers who are boosting yields and increasing scale. European output may expand by about 17 percent to more than 20 million tons and imports sink by about half with the changes, Rabobank says.
Guyana have been shipping about 80 percent or so of their sugar exports to the EU, and Jamaica at least 60 percent, according to a 218-page report from LMC International Ltd. funded by the trading bloc.