Sugaronline Editorial - Feeling quite special By Meghan Sapp

Published: 02/27/2017, 11:07:00 AM

Demand for non-GMO sugars in the US is only increasing, so the USDA is helping to fill the gap with another speciality sugars TRQ.

Demand for non-GMO sugars in the US is only increasing, so the USDA is helping to fill the gap with another speciality sugars TRQ.


The backlash against GMO sugar in the US continues to grow, demonstrated by the USDA’s announcement Friday that it would boost the specialty sugars tariff rate quota for fiscal year 2017 by another 40,000 metric tonnes, raw value, as demand for organic sugar grows. Supply continues to outstrip demand since first introducing a special TRQ for organic sugar in 2005 for 42,050 MTRV.

This is good news for producers from India, the Philippines and Paraguay who are looking to boost their organic cane sugar production and exports to specialty markets like the US where premiums for such sugars are higher, even when the world market is in a deficit and already offering good prices for standard sugars.

But as the global market swings to a surplus later this year, lack of organic supplies will help to push up those prices further, while also supporting cane sugar prices in the US. Although US cane sugar and raw sugar imports destined for refining are not organic, they are non-GMO and will help to fill the demand gap for those sugars.

Friday’s move by the USDA was hardly in isolation, as it also boosted TRQs for specialty sugars in May 2016 and re-allotted cane production quotas to allow for more imported cane sugar a few days later in response to demand by refiners.

With the end of Hawaii’s sugarcane industry meaning a further supply gap for non-GMO cane sugar, more re-allotment from cane production to raw import quota will be expected for this year. It could be an opportunity for Florida and Texas cane growers to boost their production as well, after years of stagnant demand and a weaker political position compared to beet sugar producers.

Despite the backlash, farmers refuse to go back to how it was before GMOs, with hand hoeing and hand weeding and a lot more chemicals. Farmers in Idaho say they’d rather switch to growing potatoes than go back to the old ways. Using GMOs have boosted beet production by 63% from those “old ways.”

Amalgamated Sugar is pushing to get the industry to support a US$30 million campaign to change the attitudes of consumers towards GMOs and try to stay the backlash before it eats up more of their market. Already 15% of the company’s customers refuse to buy any beet sugar, no matter the price, due to GMO beets regardless of the fact that beet sugar has no protein or DNA in it. It’s a trend that’s picking up speed as more companies look to certify non-GMOs and states take on labeling.

But with only US$16 million raised for the campaign due to a poor agricultural economy and other companies not believing such an investment would have an impact on consumer demand, beet sugar may end up forever on the price taking end of the market while organic and non-GMO sugars take premiums and pride of place.

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