During the past two months, IDFA has teamed with major food manufacturing companies, the Sweetener Users Association (SUA) and other trade associations to draw attention to the food industry's urgent need for increased supplies of sugar. A series of letters to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack have stressed the need for quick action to raise the sugar tariff-rate quotas, which would allow additional imports at lower rates.
In addition to strong demand, production shortfalls of refined sugar and the continued closure of the Imperial Sugar refinery in Georgia following its accident last year have contributed to a tight domestic market. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that available sugar stocks for this fiscal year will provide less than 10 percent of total domestic demand for sugar, and the typical stocks-to-use ratio is about 15 percent. This projection marks the lowest stocks level on record at USDA and represents the equivalent of a three-week supply for domestic manufacturers.
"Increasing the supply has the potential to benefit consumers with more competitive prices, preserve and add jobs by guaranteeing adequate supplies to keep production lines running and potentially reduce taxpayer costs as food prices affect inflation-indexed programs," one letter states.
IDFA's ice cream and flavored milk members, about 200 companies in total, use sugar in their products and are affected by domestic supply levels. These companies employ nearly 35,000 people.
The United States limits imports of foreign raw cane and refined sugar through the tariff-rate quota (TRQ) system, which is set each year by USDA. Typically, a lower tariff is charged on imports within a set quota volume, and a higher tariff is charged on imports over the quota. Although sugar may continue to be imported at the higher rate, the cost to manufacturers and ultimately consumers would be great, given the current short supply.
To date, IDFA has worked on three letters to Secretary Vilsack; one was a joint letter signed by 42 trade associations and companies, and two others were sent by members of the U.S. House and Senate.
IDFA will continue to work with other trade associations and companies to maintain adequate refined sugar supplies for members. For more information on IDFA's advocacy efforts in the sweetener industry, contact Katie Sparrow, IDFA manager of international affairs, at (202) 220-3507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.