Sugar users have blasted a move my MEPs to extend the sugar quota system, warning that it could result in supply shortages and higher prices.

MEPs in the Agriculture Committee voted this week to continue with sugar quotas until 2020, rather than stick to the originally agreed end date of 2015.

Sugar users said EU sugar prices rose 47% between October 2010 and October 2012, largely because of the quota system, which restricts imports of sugar cane to protect the EU’s sugar beet industry.

EU sugar prices are 50% higher than world market prices because of the restrictions, said the Committee of European Sugar Users.

It called on member states to push for quotas to be abolished at Council and urged MEPs to vote against the extension of quotas when the matter is brought before the parliament.

“SMEs will be hit particularly hard. We strongly urge the European Parliament to consider the broader community interest when it votes in plenary and to commit to a clear end date of the EU sugar quota regime well before 2020,” said Muriel Korter, secretary general of the Committee of European Sugar Users.

Meanwhile, sugar growers welcomed this week’s vote by MEPs. “We are delighted that they have recognized that the European beet sector would face damaging upheaval if the Commission’s proposals to end the regime in 2015 come to fruition,” said NFU sugar board chairman William Martin.