U.S. boosts sugar imports to offset freeze losses

The U.S. Agriculture Department said Monday it will increase sugar imports in fiscal 2011, giving the raw sugar market a mild boost.

The USDA said the extra imports will offset domestic sugar cane lost in Florida in January, when a hard freeze hit the state.

An annual sugar import program run by the USDA was increased to 1,556,497 short tons for fiscal 2011 by reassigning 325,000 short tons originally allocated to domestic producers to countries exporting sugar to the United States.

Foodmakers grappling with high prices have pressured the government to boost sugar imports, and foreign growers have also pushed for more access.

The U.S. sugar program attempts to balance imports with consumption and domestic production so that growers receive a minimum price at no net cost to farmers. Under the law, the USDA must wait until April before adjusting its import quota.

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