At last some action on sugar subsidies. As the EUobserver reports, Mariann Fischer Boel, European Union agriculture commissioner, has announced proposals for a 39% cut in the support price paid by the taxpayer for white sugar. Since EU sugar producers — ludicrously — receive three times the world price of sugar (and that's only one of a treasure trove of benefits they get) this amounts to a fairly modest cut. And it will probably be reduced once the formidable farm and sugar producing lobbies get their act together.
The only people who deserve sympathy are those developing countries that already benefit from the EU's high prices. They should be given adequate transitional relief. Otherwise this will be a boost to other developing countries whose natural advantages in growing sugar have been swamped by an immoral EU regime that bribes European farmers to overproduce at inflated prices then dumps the surplus on world market at much lower prices.
It would have been nice if it had been a spontaneous gesture by the EU to curtail the excesses of the agriculture welfare state that is still subsidised to the tune of 34% of its income. But, no, it was simply a response to a ruling by the World Trade Organisation that much of the EU's sugar regime to be illegal.
Even so, the move must be warmly welcomed. In fact, taken with the way Tony Blair has re-opened the question of EU agriculture subsidies as a whole, there hasn't been a time in recent years when the topic has become such a discussion point. The urgent task is to convert talk into action.