Top Sugar Exporters
2008 has seen the continuation of the general downturn of the global sugar market with regards to sugar prices, but surprisingly buoyant sugar growers are continuing to produce vast amounts of sugar each year, in spite of the fact that there is a global surplus of well over 10 million tons predicted for 2008. Many nations, notably Brazil, Thailand, India, and Australia, are in a process of ramping up sugar cane growing, sugar production, and sugar exports.
Interestingly enough, if these figures are compared with global sugar production figures, it is abundantly clear that being a large sugar producer does not immediately equate to being a large sugar exporter. China, for instance, does not even appear of the table of top sugar exporters, but it is the world’s fourth largest producer of sugar. Thailand, on the other hand, is the world’s second largest sugar exporter, but is only the world’s fifth largest sugar producer, lagging almost 5 million tons behind China in terms of actual sugar production.
Global demand for sugar is increasing steadily by around two percent a year. This demand is being fueled by population growth, and the Westernization of traditional diets, especially those in Asia and the Middle East. In 2007/2008, it is estimated that global sugar consumption may exceed 155 million tons, a figure which has increased substantially since 1991/1992 when global sugar consumption was only 110 million tons. Exporters may be able to command a lower price in 2008 than they may have grown accustomed to receiving over the past decade, but with consumption steadily rising, production and exports are likely to remain high as well.
The sugar export data below refers largely to the 2006/2007 period which has now ended and is therefore complete, though some forecasts for the 2007/2008 period are also included.
Brazil 22.2 (20.9 million tons in 2008) Brazil easily sits at the top of the sugar exporting table, exporting five times more sugar than any other country. Brazil produced over 35 million tons of sugar in this period, but domestic consumption accounts for around 14 million tons of Brazilian sugar production. Brazilians are well known for their love not only of producing sugar, but consuming it, (the average Brazilian consumes 55 kilograms of sugar every year) and will also happily purchase sugar regardless of fluctuations in the price. Brazil’s increased sugar production in spite of the tumbling of world sugar prices reflects the healthy margins that Brazilian sugar producers expect to see even when sugar prices fall. Unfortunately, with unfavorable exchange rates between the BRL and the US Dollar, and the increased cost of equipment associated with sugar production, not to mention the increased cost of transporting sugar around the world as fuel prices rise, profit margins are dropping for Brazil’s sugar producers, though not enough for sugar production to take a significant hit.
Thailand 4.5 (5.8 million tons in 2008) Thailand exports the bulk of its sugar, up to 70% of it, in fact. Because Thai people are not traditionally huge sugar consumers, though this is rapidly changing, especially in major cities, the majority of Thai sugar is free to be exported around the world. Thailand sells mostly to neighboring Asian countries, and is continuing to increase production in spite of the falling sugar prices which are currently impacting the world’s sugar exporting nations.
Australia – 3.9 million tons. Australia has been quietly climbing up the ranks as a sugar exporter with barely a murmur of excitement. Now the world’s third largest exporter of sugar in spite of the fact that it is only the world’s seventh largest sugar producer, Australia exports a very large percentage of its sugar crop every year, with exports in some states, such as Queensland, accounting for almost 80% of all sugar grown there.
SADC 2.3 million tons. The SADC is a community of African countries, and the title SADC stands for Southern African Development Community. The major sugar producing countries in this coalition are Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Swaziland, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. South Africa produces the bulk of the sugar of the SADC, exceeding 50% of total production in previous years. In the 2007 growing season, South Africa produced about 2.25 million tons out of a total production of around 5.2 million tons. As a direct result, South Africa also exports more than any other country in the SADC, exporting about 1.1 million tons in the 2007 season. The second largest exporter in the group was Mauritius, with exports of around half a million tons of sugar, followed by Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and Malawi.
Guatemala 1.9 million tons. The third largest producer of sugar in Latin America, Guatemala is the fifth highest sugar exporting nation in the world. Similarly to Thailand and Australia, it consumes relatively little of its own produce, and exports around 75% of its sugar. The achievement of being the world’s fifth largest sugar exporting nation is especially exceptional when one considers that it was only just over a decade ago that 36 years of civil war came to an end.
India 1.34 million tons. (Up to four million tons in 2008) India’s sugar exports were very low in the 2006/2007 season despite a high production level because of the Indian government banning exports in 2006 in a bid to try and stop prices from spiraling out of control. Exports were reintroduced in 2007 on a small scale, and are expected to almost triple in 2008. India is the second largest sugar producing nation in the world, vying closely with Brazil for the top spot. It is estimated that India will produce over 25 million tons of sugar in 2008, and may even have an internal surplus of over 12 million tons to deal with. India’s people are great consumers of sugar, and there are many local raw sugars which have importance both as a mineral rich foodstuff, and as a part of their culture.
Europe – 1.2 million tons. Europe’s sugar exports have been curbed, along with sugar production as a result of fears of sugar surpluses, not to mention exports violating various trade agreements. The European Union produces around 15 million tons of sugar yearly, much of which exceeds local demands.
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