EU sugar imports to rise because of poor beet harvest
EU refiners are raising raw sugar imports due to a poor domestic beet harvest and falling stocks, trade sources said on Friday.
In recent years, the EU’s import requirements have been subdued due to healthy supplies, but a smaller planted area after a big carryover of stocks has eroded expectations for this year’s beet sugar harvest, which is now under way.
In France, production of sugar beet was expected to fall sharply after plants suffered from exceptionally hot, dry summer weather. In Germany, planted area is sharply down.
Analyst Green Pool has forecast this year’s EU beet crop at 14.3 million tons, down from around 19 million last year.
According to EU data published in June, EU quota sugar stocks at end-September 2016 were forecast at 746,000 tons, down from 1.069 million tons at end-September 2015.
This has created an opportunity for raw sugar imports to the EU.
“I do believe that the EU will see more imports of raw sugar in 2015/16,” said Ruud Schers, a Netherlands-based Rabobank analyst.
“Already now after five weeks in the marketing year the applications for import refining licences are up 140,000 tons year-on-year.”
A senior European refinery executive said, “EU imports for refining will increase this year. And that means an increase in refining activity too.”
Much of the raw sugar imported to the EU is expected to come from developing country origins which have preferential trading arrangements with the bloc.
Refiners had applied at the end of September for import licences totalling 254,000 tons of “any origin” raw sugar.
The big question now was whether refiners would apply for import licences for some 335,000 tons of so-called “CXL quota” sugar from Brazil if EU prices rise further.
The CXL import quota is a supply of raw sugar cane that has preferential access to the EU market.
“Additional imports to the EU will be needed,” said Tom McNeill, director of Green Pool.
“Brazil definitely is in the frame for CXL imports. I guess the question is: when will that happen?”
If Brazil does supply CXL quota sugar to the EU, it will come as welcome relief to the leadingsugar exporter, due to risks it will struggle for sales to number 2 importer Indonesia, as suppliers in rival Thailand benefit from a favourable regional trade regime.