The European Commission has hosted the first meeting of a new Sugar Expert Group.

The group is designed to help make the transition to a post quota market as smooth as possible and was announced by EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan at the January 2015 Farm Council.

EU sugar quotas expiring at the end of September 2017.

Comprising experts from Member State Ministries of Agriculture, the aim of the group is to discuss all relevant topics prior to the end of the quota system.

Opening the meeting, DG Agriculture and Rural Development Director-General Jerzy Plewa said within twelve months - in the spring of 2016 - EU beet growers will sow the last beet under the quota system that will expire after September 30, 2017.

"It is crucial that the sugar supply chain, from farmers, sugar producers, sugar users to the consumers are informed in the best possible and transparent way about the changes in the run-up to the end of sugar production quotas in order to take the most appropriate business decisions."

At the meeting the Commission presented an updated EU balance sheet for the sugar market. It also presented the assessments made before the 2006 reform, the 2013 reform and the medium term outlook until 2024. The envisaged price scenarios in those studies should allow the operators to assess the situation post-quota.

Already at this first meeting a number of Member States requested to discuss the Voluntary Coupled Support, part of the 2013 CAP reform, and how Member States have decided to implement this option. The Commission has also asked Member States to come forward with other issues which they would like to discuss in this forum.