The World Trade Organization has ruled that European Union subsidies to sugar producers are illegal.

Thursday's decision comes on an appeal of an earlier finding that EU handouts to sugar farmers exceeded the levels allowed by international agreements.

The ruling could affect millions of tons of sugar on world markets.

Experts say the complex EU program of subsidies and exports unfairly depressed world sugar prices, making it difficult for farmers in other nations to compete.  

At the same time EU import and production quotas meant consumers in the European Union paid several times the world price for sugar.

The complaint was brought by sugar exporters Australia, Brazil, and Thailand.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP, Reuters.