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Posted on  

December 12, 2000

World sugar prices set for bumpy landing

After rising phoenix-like from the ashes, world sugar prices risk crash landing by the end of 2001 due to increased supplies and lack of demand from leading importers, sugar analysts said.

Expectations of the first global sugar production deficit for six years and hopes of major Chinese imports sent raw sugar prices (SBc1) soaring to an almost three-year high of 11.40 cents a lb in mid-October from a near 13-year low of 4.62 cents in February.

However prices have since eased to around 9.60 cents due to growing doubts about both the deficit and Chinese purchases.


Analysts forecast sugar values ranging between nine and 11 cents a lb until the third quarter of 2001.

"Then I see price pressure in the 4th quarter with prices coming down to six cents by the end of 2001," Tony Hannah, chief economist at the London-based International Sugar Organization, told Reuters.

Hannah sees pressure coming from a recovery in sugar cane output in 2001/02 (May/April) in Brazil, the world's largest producer, after a 20 percent drought-driven fall this year.

However Brazilian analysts forecast only a modest rise.

"Our expectation is for an improvement of between five and eight percent for the centre-south," said Plinio Nastari, president of commodity analysts Datagro.

Brazil's centre-south region accounts for about 80 percent of the country's sugar cane crop.

Nastari recently estimated an exportable Brazilian sugar surplus of between 5.5 and 6.5 million tonnes in 2001/02, similar to this season.

Various factors, notably demand for fuel alcohol processed from sugar cane, determine how much sugar will be available for export.

Increased demand for fuel alcohol, or ethanol, due to a sharp rise in oil prices, has tightened supplies and resulted in ethanol imports. A greater share of cane is therefore expected to be crushed into ethanol instead of sugar next year.

"The profile has to change for the next crop, it needs to be around 41 percent sugar and 59 percent alcohol" Nastari said.  


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