Tate & Lyle Sugars will go before the General Court of the European Union tomorrow in pursuit of a better deal for sugar refiners.

The company has filed three lawsuits against the European Commission accusing it of causing sugar costs to rise artificially, well above world prices.  At issue are restrictions placed on sugar imports that Tate & Lyle alleged had led cane refiners to make heavy losses, while sugar beet processors made large profits.

The hearing tomorrow, which relates to the first case filed in summer 2011, will determine whether the case itself is admissible before the court. Referring to provisions in the Lisbon Treaty, Tate & Lyle is hoping to convince the judges that it is. The Commission will argue that it is a matter for member states.

“We are relying on the Court to set a precedent by recognising that this case, and the two others that we have so far lodged against Commission, really are about decisions made in Brussels and Brussels alone,” said Tate & Lyle president Ian Bacon.

Tate & Lyle said EU sugar prices now stand 80% above the world market price because of the Commission’s sugar regime. It added that without a change in policy, refiners will be forced out of business.

The company will be joined in Luxembourg tomorrow by the Portuguese refiner Sidul Acucares.

Meanwhile, London MEP Marina Yannakoudakis met the Commission’s vice president in charge of competition Joaquin Almunia yesterday to press Tate & Lyle’s case.

“I am pleased that Vice President Almunia listened to our concerns. Refineries across Europe have stopped running at full capacity and there have been lay-offs with more jobs threatened,” said Yannakoudakis.

“If the Commission were to allow more flexible imports of raw sugar, refineries would be able to expand in order to meet the increased demand. Cane refiners need to be given a fair chance to compete.”