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US increases Caribbean sugar quota

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GEORGETOWN, GUYANA (AP) MARCH 25: The United States Government has increased the amount of sugar it will import from several Caribbean countries, giving a boost to regional producers who are struggling to absorb large cuts to EU sugar subsidies.

Guyana, the largest of five sugar-producing countries in the region, received about a 25 per cent increase in its raw sugar quota, moving up to 23,800 tons (21,560 metric tons) for fiscal year 2006, the US Embassy here said in a statement.

Jamaica and Belize, the other two large producers, also got 25 per cent hikes, taking their quota to nearly 22,000 tons (20,000 metric tons). Trinidad and Tobago received a 25 per cent increase in its export ceiling, moving its total to about 13,900 tons (12,600 metric tons), said Ian McDonald, director of the Sugar Association of the Caribbean.

Barbados did not receive an increase in its US sugar quota.
The US didn't say why it increased the quota, but McDonald said it was no surprise given the devastation wreaked on plantations in US southern states, such as Louisiana, due to Hurricane Katrina and other storms in recent years.

"The US has been increasing quotas to buffet supplies as there is a shortage on their market," he said.

The increase should help offset the EU's 36 per cent cut in sugar subsidies imposed in January. For years, the
EU gave former colonies in the Caribbean, Africa and the Pacific preferential access to its markets and paid high prices to encourage development, but the World Trade Organisation said that was unfair and ordered the bloc to reduce quotas and prices for sugar, as well as for bananas and cotton.

Caribbean sugar producers include Guyana, Jamaica, Belize, Trinidad and Barbados. St Kitts closed its industry after the EU cuts were first announced and because of rising production costs.

Caribbean countries annually produce about 772,000 tons (700,000 metric tons) of sugar, most of which is sent to Europe.

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