USDA increases sugar quota (again) on supply pressure

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has again increased the 2011 sugar tariff rate quota to relieve supply pressure – a move the Sweetener Users Association has welcomed, while urging further adjustment.

Members of the confectionery industry, as well as other sugar users in the food industry as a whole, have been filing pleas for increased tariff rate quotas (TRQs) for some time. Meanwhile, sugar growers argue that US sugar prices are affordable, despite sugar prices well above those of other countries.

The Sweetener Users Association (SUA) said in a statement: “In an undersupplied market with record or near-record prices, every additional ton of sugar is helpful. We remain concerned that because USDA may currently be overestimating available supplies and underestimating actual demand, this TRQ increase may not result in fully adequate stocks. USDA has stated that further adjustments during 2011 are possible, and we commend the department for that posture.”

The USDA said it determined that additional supplies were needed in the US market amid climbing retail food prices, and has increased the tariff rate quota for the 2011 fiscal year by 120,000 short tons, bringing the total to 1.676 million tons.

Sugar is the only major agricultural product in the United States that is subject to import quotas, and only Mexico is exempt, under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The SUA said that the USDA’s decision to increase the TRQ for the second time this year reflects an urgent need to reform US sugar policy.

“SUA and its members continue to advocate for additional quota increases that will be necessary to ensure adequate supplies, and will help consumers, small businesses, and workers without harming producers in any way,”​ the association said.

The United States is the world’s largest consumer of sweeteners, including sugar and high fructose corn syrup, and is one of the world’s biggest sweetener importers, according to the USDA.

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