How High Can it Go?

India’s sugar export subsidy is probably illegal under World Trade Organization rules, but that hasn’t stopped the country from – once again – making adjustments to it. And surprise, surprise, the adjustment will send the subsidy higher, not lower.

In late January, India’s food minister signed off on an export subsidy rate of 4,000 rupees ($64) per ton of raw sugar. That’s up from a subsidy of 3,300 ($53) rupees per ton, which was set in February of 2014 and then promptly increased to 3,371 ($54) rupees in August.

India exported 2.8 million tons of sugar last year with the aid of this subsidy, and this year, the Indian sugar lobby says it will need to offload about 2 million tons to keep domestic prices high.

Pot Calling the Kettle ‘Protectionist’

It’s no big secret that big candy companies like to badmouth sugar farmers for being “protectionist.”

Even though America is the world’s biggest sugar importer, the market is never quite open enough for the candy man’s liking. Heavily subsidized sugar grown by less efficient foreign countries with substandard labor, environmental, and safety standards should flow freely through America, even if it bankrupts rural businesses and farms, they contend.

Heck, the confectioner lobby has even bashed sugar producers for asking that U.S. laws be enforced to stop Mexico from dumping subsidized sugar onto the U.S. market and harming U.S. sugar producers and taxpayers.

USDA: Sugar Policy to Cost $0 for Next Decade

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 9, 2015
CONTACT: Phillip Hayes, 202-507-8303

WASHINGTON—U.S. sugar policy is expected to cost taxpayers $0 from FY2015 to FY2025, according to projections released last week by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Sugar policy is the least expensive major commodity policy in the Farm Bill because farmers repay loans with interest instead of receiving subsidy checks. It ran at no cost to taxpayers from 2003 to 2012 and again in 2014.

There was a net cost of $259 million in 2013 when the USDA had to take emergency action to prevent the market from collapsing after Mexico dumped a record amount of subsidized sugar onto the U.S. market.

OPEC of Sugar Lives Up to its Name

With a dominant 50% market share of global sugar exports, Brazil can exert more control over prices than any other sugar producer. Brazilian subsidies and policy decisions affect consumers and farmers around the world, who are helpless to combat a behemoth whose primary goal is to increase its monopolistic reign.

It’s why Brazil is called the OPEC of sugar, and it’s why we were not surprised to read about how even decisions in Brazil’s gasoline sector can move sugar prices.