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Sugar Prices Mixed on the Outlook for Bigger Domestic Sugar Supplies in India

Barchart - Thu Feb 22, 11:20AM CST

March NY world sugar #11 (SBH24) this morning is up +0.10 (+0.44%), and May London ICE white sugar #5 (SWK24) is down -4.60 (-0.74%).

Sugar prices this morning are mixed, with London sugar posting a 5-week low.  Sugar prices came under pressure today after India said it has no plans to allow its sugar mills to divert more cane crushing to make ethanol, which should boost India's domestic sugar supplies.  NY sugar recovered from a 5-week low and moved higher after a decline in the dollar index to a 2-1/2 week low sparked some short-covering in sugar futures.

Sugar has been under pressure over the past week from a significant increase in Brazil's sugar production.  Last Thursday, Unica reported that Brazil's Center-South sugar output jumped +68.5% y/y in the second half of January to 28,000 MT and that sugar output in the 2023/24 crop year through January rose +25.5% y/y to 42.129 MMT.  Meanwhile, more sugarcane is being crushed for sugar than ethanol, as 49.04% of cane was crushed in the 2023/24 crop year through January for sugar production compared to 45.95% last year.

Reduced sugar production in India is a bullish factor.  The Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) reported Monday that India's 2023/24 sugar output during the Oct -Feb 15 period fell -2.5% y/y to 22.4 MMT.   For the full marketing year, ISMA forecasts India's 2023/24 sugar production at 33.05 MMT, down -9.7% from 36.6 MMT in 2022/23.  India's Weather Department said this year's monsoon rain (Jun-Sep) was 6% below average, the poorest monsoon rainfall in 5 years.  In October, India extended restrictions on sugar exports from Oct 31 until further notice in an attempt to maintain adequate domestic supplies.  India allowed mills to export only 6.1 MMT of sugar during the 2022/23 season to Sep 30 after letting them export a record 11.1 MMT in the previous season.  India is the second-largest sugar producer in the world.

Sugar prices are also seeing support from signs that India's ban on sugar exports will be maintained and global supplies will remain tight after India recently announced a 50% export tax on molasses from sugar refining.  That reduces the likelihood that India will lift its sugar export curbs in the foreseeable future.

Concerns about global sugar production are positive for prices after the Thai Sugar Millers Corp on Feb 6 projected that Thailand's 2023/24 sugar production would fall by 32% y/y to a 17-year low of 7.5 MMT due to a severe drought.   Rainfall in Thailand has been below the same period last year, and the current El Nino weather system could further reduce precipitation over the next two years.  Sugar millers in Thailand are reporting the lowest yield from crushed cane this year in at least 13 years.  Thailand is the world's third-largest sugar producer and the second-largest sugar exporter.

A bullish factor for sugar is concern that an El Nino weather pattern could disrupt global sugar production.  An El Nino weather pattern typically brings heavy rains to Brazil and drought to India, negatively impacting sugar crop production.  The last time El Nino brought dryness to sugar crops in Asia was in 2015 and 2016, which caused prices to soar.

The USDA, in its bi-annual report released on Nov 23, projected that global 2023/24 sugar production would climb +4.7% y/y to a record 183.461 MMT and that global 2023/24 human sugar consumption would increase +1.2% y/y to a record 178.431 MMT.  The USDA also forecasted that 2023/24 global sugar ending stocks would fall -13.3% y/y to a 13-year low of 33.681 MMT.  Meanwhile, ISO on Aug 10 projected that 2023/24 global sugar production would fall -1.2% y/y to 174.8 MMT and that the global sugar market in 2023/24 will fall into a deficit of -2.12 MMT from a 2022/23 global sugar surplus of +852,000 MT.

More Sugar News from Barchart
On the date of publication, Rich Asplund did not have (either directly or indirectly) positions in any of the securities mentioned in this article. All information and data in this article is solely for informational purposes. For more information please view the Barchart Disclosure Policy here.

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