Sugar Technology
On-line News

April 2007

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Well, if no news is good news then March was a good month ....


In a bizarre twist to the story of the US/Mexico sugar trade ‘war’, the US – long fearful of a flood of Mexican sugar – will shortly export 20,000 tons of white sugar to Mexico. As usual, the workers in Mexico went on strike at the start of crop so there is a shortage of sugar in the country. There is even speculation that there will not be enough surplus to export any of its sugar back to the US – in the first year since the war was resolved.


It seems that the English language versions of the story about Eastern Sugar [the Tate and Lyle and St Louis Sucre joint venture in Eastern Europe that is being closed down under the EU regime changes] switching to gas production were using the Americanism for liquid automobile fuel : the new owners intend to make bioethanol. What is still not clear is whether they intend to use beets as the feedstock or some other agricultural product(s).


Following on from the closure of a significant part of Italy’s sugar production as a result of the EU regime change, T&L has formed a joint venture with Eridania, the leading Italian sugar producer, to market sugar in that country. With Thames refinery uncertain as to where it will find its raws, it is unclear where the sugar for Italy will come from.


Confusion seems to be the order of the day as the Indian government tries to find ways to support the industry – which has switched from a serious deficit to a serious glut in only two years – without falling foul of WTO regulations. It now seems clear that no only will all restrictions on export be removed but an export subsidy will be paid. How does one operate a business when faced with such climatic and regulatory swings?


The [potential] Makhathini Flats sugar project is in the news again with the government announcing that 60 million m per annum of water from the Jozini Dam [apparently now called the Pongolapoort Dam] would be made available for sugar production.


High dextran levels cost Fiji US $41 per ton on a small shipment that it made to the US last year : luckily the original price was about $480 a ton ….


As a result of the EU regime changes, Suedzucker is planning to close two of its German beet factories : Gross-Gerau and Regensburg. It has also decided to take a major write-down in goodwill in the current financial year – half a billion Euros.

The company has also decided to go ahead with its bio-ethanol project at Wanze near Liege in Belgium. The plant will produce 300 million litres per annum from a mixture of sugar beets and grain.


Some 30 years after its southern neighbour, Zambia has decided that bio-ethanol is the way to go. It has introduced legislation to ensure that it can happen and Illovo are contemplating a project to produce 13 million litres at Nakambala.


The ACP [African Caribbean Pacific] has re-allocated the former St Kitt’s EU sugar quota among Guyana, Jamaica, Belize and Barbados, effectively keeping it within the Caribbean. Although only ~ 15 500 tons, any additional quota is welcome because of the high selling price.


Guysuco is looking for a 10% increase in production in the first part of its 2007 production but as the first crop [Guyana has two distinct crops each year because of the rainfall pattern] is the smaller of the two and it is not clear whether this is a maturity issue, there is no certainty that this will reflect in the annual figures.


Manuelita from Colombia and Pantaleon from Guatemala are jointly investing in a new project – in Brazil. What is more, the project is being funded in part by the IFC [the private sector part of the World Bank]. The new facility, budgeted to cost just over $ 100 million, will process 2 million tons of cane to produce some 140 000 tons of sugar and 90 million litres of ethanol.

Interestingly, the IFC also announced last month that it was ready to assist Brazil in exporting its technology to other countries and continents...


A bidding war for the Mulgrave factory in northern Queensland [it is only just south of Cairns] seems to have broken out. In mid March a ‘merger’ was announced between Mulgrave, a cooperative, and Bundaberg, a large company owned by a Belgian group that is the largest cane grower in Australia and operator of 6 sugar factories. That immediately prompted a counter-offer from Maryborough, a small company that owns the Maryborough sugar factory in South Queensland. Watch this space!


Researchers in Australia have created transgenic sugar cane which produces up to double the normal amount of sugars. The work, announced in the Plant Biotechnology Journal, induced the production of isomaltulose without any reduction in the production of sucrose. Isomaltulose [Palatinose is the trade name], is a natural constituent of honey and sugar cane with a very natural ‘sweet’ taste. It is fully digested like sucrose but at a much slower rate so has a low GI and a prolonged glucose supply.


Following last month’s article on our news page, the EU has clarified its position with respect to the Dominican Republic, stating that it “has not offered nor will offer” a sugar quota to the DR. Apparently, the message was intended to be along the lines of ‘the EU wants to scrap all its sugar quotas which means the less efficient Caribbean industries will collapse and hence the DR will have a much bigger market than at present’.


… but not in the way that you think! Researchers at Saint Louis University in Missouri have managed to produce a sugar powered fuel cell. The cell uses enzymes to break down sugars to produce electricity, leaving water behind. They have been able to run the battery, claimed to last 3 or 4 times longer than a typical Li-ion cell, on soft drinks and tree sap.

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