Sugar Technology
On-line News

September 2003

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The sugar price is now below 7 US¢ per lb and the news implies that it is likely to stay there. That may explain some of the closures announced last month.


The World Trade Organisation is setting up an expert panel to hear the complaint against the EU sugar regime that was made by Australia, Brazil and Thailand. This presumably follows those companies re-submitting their complaint following the EU's rejection of it in the first instance. The next WTO meeting is in September in Mexico.


The Government of Trinidad and Tobago has finally given in and shut down Caroni rather than try and rescue it. The company was nationalised in the 1970's so was already called Caroni (1975) Ltd. Presumably we can expect to see a Caroni (2004) emerge but without the history of poor industrial relations and a massive cost structure. It is to be expected that only St Madeleine will re-open.


Some months ago we reported the proposed sugar project in the northern Transvaal which would draw water from the Blyde River. The project emerged again last month, under fire for proposing to abstract water from a region already over-stretched. One of the users downstream, even before looking across the border at Moçambique, is the world famous Kruger National Park. The counter argument is job creation of course so it will be interesting to see what happens.


Thai company Bang Pong Intertrade is promising to invest in a new sugar project in Central Mindanao. Mindanao is central to the Philippine's government plans as it is in the far south, poor and the subject of Muslim insurgence.


The Prime Minister of Fiji, who has taken personal responsibility for the rapidly declining local sugar industry, has warned that about 5,000 growers will be forced to stop growing cane although he expects most of them to be farmers with quotas but who have not grown cane for several years.


Following a visit to India by the Guyanese Prime Minister, Bannari Amman Sugars has announced that it will be helping Guysuco with a 'technology upgradation roadmap'. It is not clear where this leaves Booker Tate or the Skeldon II project which we understood was going to be undertaken by a Chinese contractor.


Well it didn't take long for the honeymoon at Mumias to come to an end! The factory was shut for a day in August when transport drivers went on strike, just six weeks after Booker Tate left the company to its own devices. Meanwhile, across at Nzoia, it was uncertain during August whether F.C.Schaffer would be going or not. One camp seemed to want them out and another wanted them to stay, at least in a technical advisory capacity. Watch this space.

On another front, the growers at Sony have taken their turn at what seems to be the perpetual game of withholding cane. Earlier this year it was Mumias and then Nzoia and now Sony. Do they squabble among themselves as to who goes next?


The American Sugar Refining Co. [Domino to you and I] has announced the [inevitable?] closure of its Brooklyn refinery from early next year. When the Florida Crystals / Belleglade co-op purchased Domino, it already owned the RSI refinery at Yonkers, just up the river from Brooklyn, and Brooklyn refinery was still recovering from a very bitter strike. Domino will now refine at just Yonkers, Baltimore and Chalmette.

One wonders if the timing is related to the rental agreement for the heavy syrup barge which plies between Baltimore and Brooklyn. It still belongs to Tate and Lyle. [Anyone want a hardly used sugar syrup barge?]


The Center-South sugar cane area of Brazil, by far the larger of the two areas, is forecast to produce some 19 million tons of sugar in the current crop. The figures are misleading of course as much of the potential sugar is diverted to alcohol for fuel. If it were not for that, the production would be nearer 30 million tons and almost 25% of the world's production!


The Syrian government has awarded a US$ 70 million contract to an Egyptian company to expand the capacity at its Al-Ghab beet sugar factory. The investment will almost double the capacity of the existing plant.


The already drought reduced crop in the Mackay region of Queensland has been hit by a severe frost, perhaps affecting some 150,000 tons of cane. The industry has responded by adapting the processing to take in the frost damaged cane first in order to cope with the potentially crippling dextran levels.


The crop not long finished was the worst in Jamaica for some 50 years with only 152,000 tons produced compared to 172,000 [2002] and 201,000 [2001]. The official view was that you could blame anything because they all happened but the government asserted that it was committed to injecting US$ 102 million into the industry. Although the country managed to satisfy its EU quota [126,000 tons] it fell short on its US one [11,500 tons] and only managed those figures by importing from regional producers to satisfy domestic demand.


Although untrue, as you will see in a moment, it is interesting to note the response to a story that Louisiana was introducing a genetically modified cane. The story started with an announcement that a new variety, able to resist lodging, was being introduced in the state. This was re-issued by one wire service as a GM story : the cane was transgenic. Within a day or so the Sugar Cane League was forced to issue a statement that the cane was the product of conventional [or 'old fashioned' as they called it] breeding work. Anyone contemplating the introduction of real transgenic cane will have a hard time of it.

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