WASHINGTON — The US government in July has announced decisions to allow as much as 235,000 short tons, raw value, of additional raw sugar imports into the United States to boost the critically low supply of sugar in the current (2021-22) marketing year.

The US Department of Commerce announced July 1 that it had increased Mexico’s export limit under the Agreement Suspending the Countervailing Duty Investigation on Sugar from Mexico for “other” sugar exports to the United States by 135,000 short tons, raw value, effective July 1-Sept. 30, based on a June 29 request from the US Department of Agriculture. As defined in the suspension agreement, “other” sugar must have a polarity of less than 99.5 degrees on a dry basis. The DOC said it had received confirmation from the government of Mexico that it would supply the additional sugar.

The DOC previously increased Mexico’s export limit by 150,000 short tons, raw value, on Nov. 23, 2021, and by 170,000 tons on April 28, both for “other” sugar. The new export limit is 1,342,400 tons. The refined sugar portion of the export limit remains unchanged at 266,220 tons.

The USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service announced in the July 11 Federal Register an increase of 90,718 tonnes, raw value, (about 100,000 short tons) in the 2021-22 tariff-rate quota for raw cane sugar. The USDA also extended the time that TRQ imports may enter the United States to Oct. 31, one month beyond the end of the current marketing year. The initial 2021-22 TRQ for raw sugar set in September 2021 was 1,117,195 tonnes, raw value. The new raw cane sugar TRQ is 1,207,913 tonnes.

The USDA’s FAS also announced in the July 11 Federal Register the initial 2022-23 (fiscal 2023) tariff-rate quota for raw cane sugar at 1,117,195 tonnes, raw value, the minimum of US commitments under World Trade Organization agreements. The refined and specialty sugar TRQs will be announced later. The Office of the US Trade Representative also will allocate the TRQ quantity to supplying countries at a later date, as is typical.

Spot sugar supplies have been critically tight in the United States since the Michigan Sugar Co. declared force majeure in early April under which it would deliver only 75% of contracted supply until the end of the marketing year on Sept. 30. While the 25% not delivered was not huge in terms of total sugar supply, it was enough to tip the scale in an already-tight market. Since then, beet sugar has not been offered on the spot market, and only one national cane refiner has been offering refined cane sugar on the spot market. Refined cane sugar is offered spot through Dec. 31 at 68¢ a lb f.o.b., the highest since 1974.

Further, weather-delayed sugar beet planting in the Upper Midwest earlier this year greatly reduced hoped-for supply in the current marketing year (before Sept. 30) from new crop beets. Beet processors and most cane refiners also are not quoting refined sugar for 2022-23. Beet sugar sales were near 80% of prospective production much earlier in the season than usual, and processors withdrew from the market amid uncertainty about their 2022 sugar beet crops.