White Sugar Prices Explained
White sugar prices increased by 33.24% since 2022. This huge price hit mainly relates to the supply concerns from the top sugar country producers.
Check the top reasons for its price variation.
Why are white sugar prices fluctuating?
1. Weather Conditions
The quantity and quality of sugar production depends on the weather system’s condition.
Most sugar comes from sugarcane. To be specific, sugarcane accounts for 80% of global sugar output. Sugar beets follow distantly with its 32% total output.
Sugarcane is a tropical crop that requires adequate rainfall and sunshine for optimal growth and sucrose content.
Generally, droughts, floods, frosts, cyclones, pests, and diseases adversely affect sugarcane yields and quality, leading to lower sugar production and higher costs.
However, the consecutive low rainfall patterns in India ( the second-largest sugar producer ) and Thailand ( the fourth-largest sugar producer ) curb the two countries’ sugar production output.
Additionally, the current El Niño which ravages across Asia significantly reduces the affected countries’ rainfall which is vital for crop productivity. This low production will continue as this weather system will remain until the first quarter of 2024.
To top it all, market analysts expected India to ban mills from exporting sugar in October 2023 to localize its production.
Thus, the unpredictable weather systems that directly affect sugar exporters coupled with some countries’ stocking their assets create a big spike in white sugar prices.
2. Biofuel Production
Biofuel production from sugarcane or sugar beet greatly influences white sugar prices by diverting some of the feedstock away from sugar production.
This reduces the supply of sugar in the global market and increases its price.
Brazil, the largest sugar producer, makes alarming rounds of 200,000 to 400,000 tons of raw sugar export cancellations.
This cancellation stems from the profitability of high energy prices.
Brazilian sugarcane mills cancel sugar export contracts to provide more feedstock for biofuel production.
The increasing fuel prices, thanks to OPEC+ oil output cuts and the Russia-Ukraine war is a perfect leverage for Brazil to utilize ethanol production as it’s more profitable than sugar production.
Thus, this production diversion contributes to white sugar price fluctuation.
3. Production Inputs
The production of white sugar requires a number of inputs, including:
Sugar cane or sugar beets: Sugar cane and sugar beets are the two main crops used to produce white sugar.
Water: A water-demanding crop, sugarcane needs 150 cm of rainfall each year for optimal growth.
Energy: A total of 40% – 45% of energy is required to complete the sugar extraction, cane preparation, and milling.
Labor: Equipment operation for sugar processing and transportation needs a handful of workers to produce the final output.
These total production inputs make a big addition to the shifting white sugar prices.
Which variables impact the price of white sugar?
- Weather Conditions
- Biofuel Production
- Production Inputs
- Exchange Rates
Where does white sugar come from?
The most common type of sugar used in food and beverages is refined sugar or white sugar produced from either sugarcane or sugar beets.
White sugar is made by removing impurities from raw materials such as sugar beets and sugarcane to create a crystalized form of sucrose, the chemical that makes up table sugar.
The processing of white sugar can be divided into the following steps:
1. Harvesting and preparation
The first process involves mechanical harvesting of sugarcane or sugar beets. Then, the sugarcane and sugar beets are cut into smaller pieces.
2. Juice extraction
Next, the smaller pieces are crushed using the crusher rolls to extract the juice. After crushing, the juice is filtered and mixed with lime to neutralize its acidity and to precipitate out impurities.
3. Juice clarification
This method involves another round of filtration process to make sure the juice is free from impurities such as proteins, fats, and colloids.
For richer concentration, evaporation is important to remove water from the juice. This step involves 2 different sub-process:
- Multiple-effect evaporators
The most widely used evaporation technique in sugar industries.
This method uses steam to heat the juice in multiple stages, allowing water to evaporate at a lower temperature while saving energy.
- Falling film evaporators
The most efficient technique.
This process uses a thin film of juice to flow down a series of heated tubes. Due to the small content in each tube, the method of transferring heat across all tubes comes relatively easily.
70% sucrose concentration is the ideal evaporation process. Once the measurement reaches this number, the evaporation process is completed.
The concentrated sugar syrup undergoes another series of evaporation, this time, under a vacuum with fine seeds of sugar crystals to initiate the crystallization. This comes in 3 stages:
- First crystallization
Known as A strike.
The first process produces crystallized sugar and a residual mother liquor known as A molasses.
- Second crystallization
The second step yields lower-grade B molasses, thus earning the process name, B strike.
- Third crystallization
The final process produces high-grade molasses with low sugar content. Some call it C sugar or blackstrap.
Basket-type centrifuges separate the liquor from the sugar crystals. After separation, The crystals are sprayed with a fine jet of water to remove most of the syrup coating and produce raw sugar of high purity.
7. Drying and packaging
After spraying, the sugar crystals are dried and cooled in the conveyor belts.
0.5% is the ideal moisture content of white sugar to be packed in bags or in bulk for shipping.
Nowadays, this essential culinary ingredient comes from top producers such as Brazil, India, China, Thailand, and Pakistan.
What is the future price of white sugar?
Market analysts expected white sugar to continue hitting its high prices. This is due to the tightness of the sugar supply in the global market.
While climate factors have the biggest contribution to its price variation, two other present and emerging conditions will highly dominate its fluctuation:
- The impact of biofuel production on sugar markets.
- And, the Indian ethanol initiative to fuel its motorbike engines.
Thus, white sugar prices will continue to be bullish in nominal terms in 2030 at $810.96 per ton.