Sugar Prices Explained
Sugar prices posted a 13.85% increase as global supply remains unstable due to a shortage. This stems from the effects of El Niño that damaged Indian and Brazilian sugar output.
Additionally, the increasing production of biofuel to counter the varying fuel prices put pressure on the commodity’s prices.
Why are sugar prices fluctuating?
1. Weather Conditions
Sugar cane thrives in warm climates and typically tropical countries are susceptible to droughts and extreme weather temperatures.
For instance, Brazil, the top sugar-producing country experienced constant drought for four years and had its cane sugar and ethanol production down by 28.8% and 22%, respectively in 2021. This led to the rising crude oil prices in the market.
2. Production Cost
The production cost of sugarcane and sugar comes after various essential inputs such as labor, fertilizer, fuel, machinery, and planting materials.
When the costs of these inputs rise, it directly reflects the overall cost of production for sugar producers. This heightened production cost affects the profitability of producers within the sugar industry.
Therefore, to sustain their profitability levels, producers may either reduce supply or increase sugar prices in the market.
3. Fertilizer Cost
Sugar producers face financial challenges due to the increasing costs of fertilizers and high petroleum prices. The rising cost of fertilizers impacts the overall expense of cultivating sugarcane, as fertilizers are essential for crop growth and yield.
Additionally, high petroleum costs affect the price of fuel, which is important in various agricultural operations, transportation, and machinery.
Thus, the escalation of input costs reduces the income and profitability of sugar producers, ultimately creating sugar price variation.
4. Oil Prices
Sugar cane is capable of producing ethanol (flammable and renewable energy used as an additive to automobile gasoline ). Ethanol is a top competing product in the transport market.
Thus, the volatility of oil prices reflects sugar prices in international trade.
5. Trade Policy
India ( the second-largest sugar exporter ) reduced its sugar export quota to 6 million tons in the May 2023 production season. The country’s estimated sugar production in the 2022-2023 season-ending October amounts to 36.5 million tons while its local demand clinches to 27.5 million tons.
Thus, India expects a higher sugar availability.
The government’s decision to reduce the sugar export quota led to a significant surge in sugar prices. Indian mills which had pre-existing contracts with global traders, swiftly initiated renegotiations for shipments to take advantage of this price hike.
Overall, this scenario showcases how policy changes and government interventions can have immediate and tangible effects on commodity prices.
Which variables impact the price of sugar?
- Weather Conditions
- Production Cost
- Fertilizer Cost
- Oil Prices
- Trade Policy
- Consumer Preferences
- Government Policy
Where does sugar come from?
Evidence suggests that sugarcane first evolved in Southeast Asia sometime around 4,000 B.C. The invention of manufacturing sugar granules from sugar cane originated in India in the early centuries A.D.
Sugarcane cultivation and manufacturing began in the West Indies and tropical Americas in the early 16th century followed by improved production in the 17th through the 19th century. Additionally, the sugar international trade further strengthened the European colonial powers in the Americas.
Furthermore, the sugar trade became possible because of transatlantic slavery as plantation owners relied mostly on the enslaved labor to work and process refined sugar.
Sugar cane and sugar beets are often harvested from fields. Plant components are gathered and transferred to a sugar mill for processing. Then, they are washed and sliced into pieces as soon as they arrive at the factory.
The pieced sugar cane ( billets ) are crushed or shredded to extract the juice that contains sugar, separating the fiber and juice. Next, the juice is evaporated in a series of vacuum pans to remove water and increase the sugar concentration.
The concentrated juice or thick juice ( it has a dark brown color and a syrupy consistency ) is seeded with fine sugar crystals and cooled to induce crystallization. As a result, it produces a grainy texture and a caramel-like flavor ( massecuite ).
The massecuite is spun in a centrifuge to separate the sugar crystals from the liquid. Molasses ( the separated liquid ) are used as animal feed, fertilizer, and ethanol.
On the other hand, the sugar crystals ( raw sugar ) are transported to the refinery for further purification and processing.
The solution will decolorize the raw sugar, producing white sugar crystals. Presently, the world is enjoying various sweet treats from intensified sugar production and formulation. Presently, Brazil accounts for 50% of sugar production globally followed closely by India, Thailand, China, and the United States.
What is the future price of sugar?
Experts predict that sugar prices will remain elevated as crude oil prices fluctuate heavily. Brazil ( the largest sugar-producing country ) uses sugar as an ingredient in biofuel production.
Additionally, India plans to manufacture ethanol, leveraging its sugar cane output. And as fuel prices soar, domestic and international sugar prices follow as sugar prices correspond with crude oil.
Overall, the constant sugar production throughout these countries is coupled with varying demand and prices in the market. Experts also forecasted that sugar value will grow more than 50 cents per lb making it $100 in 2027.