U.S.D.A. raises sugar import quota 200,000 tons

by Ron Sterk
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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture late Friday said it reassigned surplus domestic cane sugar allotments of 200,000 short tons, raw value, and increased the 2009-10 tariff rate quota (imports) by the same amount.

“This action was taken after a determination that additional supplies of raw cane sugar are required in the U.S. market,” the U.S.D.A. said.

The 2009-10 T.R.Q. was set at 1,231,497 tons on Sept. 25, 2009, the minimum required under World Trade Agreement commitments. The increase brings the 2009-10 T.R.Q. to 1,431,497 tons. The office of the U.S. Trade Representative will announce country allocations for the increase, the U.S.D.A. said. The additional sugar must arrive by the end of the marketing year on Sept. 30, 2010.

“The FY 2010 cane sector allotment and cane state allotments are larger than can be fulfilled by domestically-produced cane sugar,” the U.S.D.A. said. “Therefore, all sugarcane states’ sugar marketing allotments are reduced with this reassignment. The FY 2010 sugar marketing allotment program will not prevent any domestic sugarcane processors from marketing all of their FY 2010 sugar supply.” Reassigned domestic allotments would be announced shortly, the U.S.D.A. said.

A couple of weeks ago U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack indicated the department would increase the 2009-10 import quota by 300,000 tons, although other department staff said no decision had been made at the time.

U.S. sugar users had petitioned the government to increase sugar import quotas by about 1 million tons, consisting of half raw and half refined sugar, due to tight supplies and high prices. Domestic sellers have said adequate supply was available and claimed buyers’ main issue was with price levels.

Portions of the T.R.Q. were reallocated in late March to countries that indicated they had sugar to ship from countries that did not have supply, but the total T.R.Q. level was not changed at that time.

The U.S.D.A. has consistently taken a cautious approach to any change in import quotas.

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