Sugar Technology
On-line News

February 2011

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What has the weather got against us? :


Perhaps the world price is being to stabilise as it trades in the early 30 /lb range although there was still a lot of volatility. The upward forces continue to be weather related in one way or another and the downward forces seem to be marked resistance to paying this prices if it can be avoided.


For the last 10 years or so, British Sugar has pushed its campaign longer and longer through the winter period – and got away with it. This winter, the coldest for at least 100 years, is markedly different. The first effect is that with frozen ground there could be no harvesting so things have been pushed later than planned. The second effect is the impact on sugar content and purity which has dropped dramatically. The third effect is that farmers with beet in the ground cannot sow their follow-on crops such as wheat. There was still 25% of the crop to be harvested on January 8. Later in January the company actually stopped all harvesting in the Newark factory harvesting area as the beet was so poor. Unconfirmed reports suggested that perhaps 40% of that area’s crop had been lost.


We reported in December that there was a movement afoot to re-start commercial Irish beet agriculture with an ethanol project. Greencore, the mother company that shut down Irish Sugar in the 2000’s during the regime change, emphatically declared itself opposed to such a move in January. It has cited the cost of beet in Ireland as ‘at least € 30 per ton compared to the average European price of € 26.30 and has quoted research which shows that ethanol would require a subsidy of € 0.26 per litre for it to compete with current fossil fuel prices.


The Algerian government has announced that it is cutting import duty and VAT on sugar and cooking oil for 6 months in an attempt to quench any talk of rebellion there. As Cevital, the country’s main [or only?] sugar refiner and also vegetable oil producer has only just commissioned a major expansion, one doubts that the decision will be welcomed in all quarters. The shop price of sugar is expected to drop by 40%.


An Egyptian company has announced a joint Egyptian/Sudanese sugar project with a claimed annual capacity of 450 000 tons of sugar, more or less the same as the infamous White Nile project. The budget for this one, while high at € 400 million [about US$ 540 million], is dwarfed by the $1.1 billion cost of the White Nile.

What nobody talks about, is the impact of the separation referendum in Sudan with the south likely to become a separate country. All of the White Nile flow will have to pass through that new country.


In December we reported that Tongaat Hulett was optimistic about Zimbabwe but In January it reported that production was about 330 000 tons for the 2010 crop, not the expected 350. It is predicting 360 to 380 000 in 2011 but that was before a government minister extolled members of a Zanu (PF) youth movement to invade the two estates. The production problems today are primarily a result of the previous theft of cane land.


Mauritius used to regularly produce at least 600 000 tons of sugar [mainly raws for export to the EU]. Last year it only produced 450 000 tons and all of it was as whites. Part of the problem is economic – people don’t want to work hard in agriculture – and part is that recently there has been a water shortage. The 2011 is not expected to be any better than 2010.


Pakistan seems to be no more able to predict its sugar production than its neighbour on the subcontinent. The millers association has predicted a crop of just 3.1 to 3.2 million tons of sugar based on a reduced cane land area [presumably because of the country’s serious floods in 2010]. After the first month of crop however, the government has announced that it expects production to be 3.9 to 4 million tons. Watch this space!


The long awaited Simbhaoli has finally been announced as a joint venture with London’s ED&F Man Sugar. Like all the new Indian refineries – this one will be near Gandhidham, Gujarat – the refinery is designed for both import and export [for when India is in surplus]. The refinery will have a capacity of 1 000 t/d, presumably RSO.


Discussions about the impact of the Australian floods continued right through January and by the end of the month had turned to focus on Yasi, a major tropical cyclone, which was about to batter the industry too. There is talk of the 2012 crop still being 50% down on normal so things are certainly looking bad. It will probably be several months before we fully understand the impact of these events.

What we do have are some standing cane figures from before the floods, just caused by the wet end to crop : Burdekin, Plane Creek and Herbert River growers have or, rather, had 20 to 30 percent of their crop standing over, Proserpine had 27pc, Mackay Sugar had 20pc and Tully 18pc.


Although the EU stopped aiding Fiji cane production when the army coup took place in 2006, it took three growers representatives of Jamaica last month to ‘learn how sugar producing countries have benefited from EU grants to help them increase cane production’. One is not convinced that Jamaica is a suitable role model.

Meanwhile, back home the Fijian Sugar Corporation is hoping to re-enter the Japanese market ‘if a visiting delegation is impressed’.


Imperial’s Savannah refinery suffered what was reported as a minor fire last month when construction workers managed to start a fire with power tools.


Another row seems to be brewing in Florida with Florida Crystals leasing 1700 acres of land from the state for just $61 per acre. The company spent a long time objecting to US Sugar paying just $50 per acre, saying that it was well below market rate. On the other hand, if that is what the state leased for then it created a new market rate so why shouldn’t FCC lease at a similar rent?


Jamaican sugar recently shipped to the US is reported to be well below standard. Everybody seems to be blaming Frome, from which the bulk of the 7 260 tons came. Pol is said to be 96.18 with a colour of 5606 and a moisture of 1.14%. The process people at Tate and Lyle’s Thames refinery must be really looking forward to receiving the 70 000 tons that was advance purchased last year.


According to the Guysuco long term plan it was supposed to produce about 360 000 tons of sugar in 2011. Current predictions are, however, that it will only manage 300 000 tons, a major issue for such a small country. Part of the problem is almost certainly the ongoing issues that the company has at Skeldon II, its new factory.


An Australian company has announced plans to start selling dietary fibre made from bagasse. It claims that competing products sell for $4 to 6 per kg [at 10% moisture content we should add] which puts a new light on using your bagasse as boiler fuel.

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