USDA tries strategy to stem glut of sugar imports
WASHINGTON — U.S. sugarcane and sugar beet farmers are bracing for a flood of imported sugar from Mexico. Record production and imports are poised to sweeten the market a bit too much.
“This is a lot of sugar for our country to cope with,” said Jack Roney, the director of economics and policy analysis at the American Sugar Alliance, an industry group of sugar producers. “Prices are dropping to levels not seen since the 1980s, and the USDA is trying to avoid the consequences of that catastrophe.”
To deal with the glut, the Department of Agriculture took the unusual step of retiring sugar-import credits and purchasing more than 100,000 tons of sugar, which allowed it to take 330,000 tons of surplus sugar off the market.
The plan, which cost $43.8 million, weaved through a maze of sugar policy, transferring purchased sugar from the Agriculture Department to refiners in an attempt to lower foreign imports. In return, refiners surrendered import credits that were awarded to allow them to bring in sugar from overseas.
The Agriculture Department expects the plan to save it an estimated $66.9 million by avoiding loan forfeiture costs from its sugar loan program. But many surrounding the industry say the move doesn't make up for what they charge is outdated policy.
Mexico's recent sugar surplus is causing problems for the U.S. market because that country has unlimited access to the U.S. market, because of provisions that are part of the North American Free Trade Agreement. A June Agriculture Department report predicts that Mexico will export its record sugar surplus to the United States, shipping more than 1.9 million tons into a saturated market this year.
“It's really become one market only separated by the costs of moving product around,” said Tom Earley, vice president of Agralytica, a Washington food and agriculture consultancy.
Couple the solid season in Mexico with what Agralytica says is another strong crop in the United States, and domestic prices are at prolonged lows.
Sugar prices are nearing levels unseen since the 1980s. Prices have fallen to 16 cents per pound for raw sugar. U.S. prices peaked at an average of 38 cents per pound in 2011, after having fallen to 18 cents in 2000.
Protecting the domestic market from heavily subsidized foreign sugar producers — such as those in Mexico, where the government owns a 20 percent stake in the sector — is a priority for the American Sugar Alliance.
“We have a U.S. sugar policy for one reason only, and that's foreign subsidization,” said Phillip Hayes, the alliance's director of communications. Hayes said the subsidization had led to the record supplies and artificially depressed prices of the current market.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Experts: If health insurers’ safeguard goes broke, consumers could pay
- Camera prevalence approaches sci-fi realm
- Rules could kick door open for nuclear power
- Visa limits vex businesses
- Kings Family Restaurants sold to California firm
- Paper’s prevalence unlikely to diminish
- Nike, Under Armour invest in watching exercisers’ steps
- Tech sector drives gains on Wall Street
- Scented society is killing cheap perfume industry
- Chief of Pittsburgh Regional Alliance sets sights on growth in Southwestern Pennsylvania
- Retailers vie for workers in tightening labor market