A trade dispute has broken out over the UK’s post-Brexit trade policy towards sugar, with British Sugar embarking on a ‘Back British Sugar’ campaign, in opposition to Tate & Lyle Sugars, which campaigned to leave the EU. British Sugar is effectively the sole buyer for the production of Britain’s 3,500 growers and makes two-thirds of Britain’s sugar, while Tate & Lyle is refined from imported cane. Under current EU regulations, there are tight restrictions on cane imports to protect beet growers, but this has been liberalising in recent years. In September an EU restriction on beet production will be phased out. Tate & Lyle says Brexit presents “a golden opportunity” for Britain to revive cane sugar refining and claims that EU protectionism has restricted choice and led to it halving the size of its UK refining business. The company paid an extra £34 million for raw cane sugar in 2015, pushing it to a £21 million loss. However, Paul Kenward, managing director of British Sugar, said that imported cane from Brazil or Thailand benefits from state subsidies, which “creates a distortion and the current trading environment broadly equalises some of those distortions”. It is expected that farm commodities will be a common source for upcoming trade disputes, in particular the issues of state subsidies and claims of protectionism.
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