Eliminate barriers in sugar exports, COMESA

NANCY MWAPE, Livingstone
SUGAR producers in Southern Africa have called on governments to eliminate non-traffic barriers (NTBs) introduced by some Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) members affecting free movement of sugar within the regional market.
Swaziland Sugar Association chief executive officer Mike Matsebula said under the COMESA free trade area (FTA), sugar is supposed to move freely within the region.
“Instead of implementing zero-tariff obligation, some sugar producers have introduced NTBs to prevent the inflow of sugar.
“They have introduced derogations, non-transparent import licencing schemes and surcharges. It is a concern that FTA commitments are not complied with,” Dr Matsebula said this last week during a conference hosted by Zambian sugar producers.
The event attracted producers from both Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and COMESA region.
He also expressed concern on possibility of some countries engaging in swaps where lower-priced sugar is imported from either Brazil or India for domestic use and local sugar is then exported to the region at higher price.
Dr Matsebula said currently sugar produced within the SADC region is priced higher than that coming from overseas.
“The problem with sugar originating from outside is that it may come from distorted supply sources where subsidies or other forms of support are granted to the sugar producers,” he said.
Dr Matsebula said sugar from non-COMESA or SADC state, moves across borders through swaps or illegal routes from lower priced region into higher priced countries.
“There is need to promote cross border movements of local sugar without the importation of cheap sugar from outside the region. This is based on the fundamental premise that regional integration intended to expand the production and trade of goods originating from the region,” he said.
He said while Africa as a whole is a deficit sugar producer, SADC is the only region with a surplus. Sugar consumption in Africa is projected to grow faster than in any other region of the world over the next 10 to 20 years.

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