Sugar harvest declines, USDA plans imports |

Sugar harvest declines, USDA plans imports

With prospects of sugar production in significant decline due to adverse weather in both sugar beet and sugarcane regions, the Agriculture Department signaled that it will make an announcement of increased imports soon.

In a news release Friday, USDA said “In the November 2019 World Agricultural Supply & Demand Estimates Report, the U.S. sugar production projection declined by 572,000 short tons raw value from the previous month, while ongoing weather concerns threaten further reductions.”

“With a 10.5% ending stocks-to-use ratio forecast for FY20, USDA will be addressing options in the near future in order to stabilize U.S. sugar supplies,” the release said.

“USDA intends to make an announcement between Nov. 18 and Dec. 10 as to quantity, type and source of additional sugar needed to ensure an adequate supply for the domestic market, avoid forfeitures and prevent or correct market disruptions.”

Phillip Hayes, a spokesman for the American Sugar Alliance, which represents U.S. cane and beet growers, acknowledged the harvest problems and said the expected import announcement proves that there is “flexibility” in the U.S. sugar program.

“Mother Nature is not always kind,” Hayes told The Hagstrom Report in an email.

“American sugar growers have faced severe weather conditions as they harvest their crops, including heavy rains, snow, freezing temperatures and tropical storms. Many growers have been forced to abandon their fields and will continue to bear the costs of field and equipment damage for months to come from their efforts to harvest waterlogged or frozen fields.

“Like many in rural America, sugar producers are already facing incredible challenges, including rising production costs, shrinking margins, lost equity and a struggling farm economy.

“Nonetheless the flexibility provided by U.S. sugar policy ensures consumer supplies of sugar will be adequate going forward.”

The Sweetener Users Association often says that the program makes imports difficult and expensive and can lead to shortages.