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April saw major disruptions in the world and the US almost dragged the UN down: not the war in Iraq but a threat to withdraw funding from WHO.
The World Health Organisation has again caused a major row by preparing a report stating that sugar should form no more than 10% of a healthy diet. A report prepared by the WHO in 1990 also made that statement but the report was changed before publication after intense pressure from the sugar industry, partly based on the damage which would be done to developing countries which are sugar producers.
This time, it has been reported that the US industry has asked its government to withdraw the $406 million which it contributes annually to the support of the WHO if the report is published. Withdrawal of such a sum would effectively finish the organisation.
PHILIPPINES: OLD AND NEW
VMC has been purchased by Lucio Tan, one of the country's leading taipans and owner of, among other things, Philippine's Airlines. We now understand that it was about one third of the company that was up for sale in this round but as the remainder of the business is still owned by up to 25 banks, that gives effective control.
Meanwhile, a new factory, San Antonio, is going to be built on the island of Panay to the north of Negros, the country's 'sugar island'. This is probably the only new cane sugar factory in the world at the moment which is actually going ahead [unless you know differently?].
USDA PREDICTS DROP IN BRAZILIAN AND AUSTRALIAN CROPS
The latest USDA reports on the sugar industries of the world are out. The Brazilian crops are forecast to come off the record highs, falling by about 6% but still a staggering 22.4 million tons of raw sugar. Perhaps more importantly, the exports are forecast to drop by 13% as more sugar is diverted into ethanol. The Brazilian Government's view is that the fall will only be about 8.5%.
The USDA's view of Australia is that the country's sugar exports will fall by 7% in the coming crop because of draught in parts of Queensland. Certainly in the Mackay region there is talk of delaying the start of crop by several weeks and of Mackay sugar again not running Pleystowe mill and perhaps not running one of the others either.
TAY NINH RECORD
Tay Ninh in Vietnam, owned by Sucrerie Bourbon, crushed a record 921,000 tons of cane in the crop just ended, its fifth year of operations. Last year's cane was only about 2/3rds of that figure so hopefully we have seen the end of the cane shortages which have been characteristic of the country's struggling [and infant] industry. Whether that happens may ultimately depend on what the government does with loss making mills after that 2005. It has just passed a law allowing small government owned milling companies to hold onto the VAT they collect until the end of 2005. Thereafter it is threatening to close any which are still loss making.
Mumias has had another bad month with a second long shut-down. This time it was the cane growers who successfully shut the factory - for 21 days - in protest at a cane purchase price reduction. Readers will remember that last month we reported an even longer shut-down caused by the transport workers. Nzoia was also shut for three weeks by a growers' dispute but as it is reported that some of them are still owed money for cane delivery during past crops, perhaps that is more understandable.
Not surprisingly, the USDA report [see item above on Brazil] on the Kenyan industry does not make happy reading!
It looks as if Cuba is falling deeper into the abyss. Last year's production was 3.61 and the rationalisation [which closed nearly half the mills] was intended to achieve a similar figure this year with a much reduced cost base. However, it was reported in April that only 1.6 million tons had been made and in some parts of the island early rains are already jeopardising the rest of the crop. Some estimates are as low as 2 million tons and the consensus view seems to be around 2.5 million.
AUDUBON SUGAR VACANCY
We note that Professor Peter Rein has a vacancy for a senior post at the Audubon in Louisiana following the retirement of one of the professors at the Institute. Applicants will have to have a relevant PhD from a suitable university and relevant sugar industry experience.