Europeans’ taste for sugar transformed the world.
West Indies plantations built from the 17th century to feed demand sparked a nexus of commerce, capital and manufacture that fomented the industrial revolution and modern financial markets.
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 developing-country 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 grown in Jamaica in 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 Mauritius 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.
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