Swaziland’s sugar exports are likely to decline after the European Union’s (EU) deregulation of the industry.
Swazi sugar farmers have struggled to assert themselves outside the EU.
Sugar farmers in the world’s only absolute monarchy have for decades benefitted from the EU’s cap on annual sugar production. It kept prices artificially high and created a market for imports. Half of Europe’s raw sugar comes from Africa. Swaziland, with a population of just 1.3 million, is the continent’s largest exporter.
The EU limits were recently set aside. This gave farmers from countries like France and Poland the opportunity to boost production and cut costs, while crowding out African producers like Swaziland.
“Previously, it was lucrative for the sugar industry. We sold half of our production locally and the rest to the EU, and then went fishing,” said Oswald Magwenzi, an executive of Ubombo Sugar Limited, a subsidiary of Illovo Sugar and one of the three major producers in the country.
Sugar exports make up three-quarters of the country’s agricultural output.
The United States Department of Agriculture forecasts that EU sugar production will be 30% higher by the end next year.