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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 14, 2011 @ 8:00 am

    Spin spin sugar

    Laura Slattery

    Overdosing on sugar may be a traditional Valentine’s Day celebration / survival strategy, but lately the world’s supply of the sweet stuff has slumped like human energy levels – ooh – approximately 20 minutes after chocolate mallow consumption.

    Prices hit a 30-year high recently after Cyclone Yasi was estimated by the producers’ group Canegrowers to have obliterated at least a quarter of Queensland’s sugar cane crop. As a result of the damage in Australia – the world’s third largest sugar exporter – commodity forecasters including Rabobank have warned that global sugar output will probably fall short of demand this year. For its part, the European Union is mulling higher import limits following the panicky clearing of supermarket shelves in Portugal in December.

    Before the birth such complicated deficit-enhancers as CFDs, CDOs and CDSs, there was a time when commodities occupied a more central part of the financial news. This “Dublin Weekly Sugar Report” from the Irish Times of April 15th, 1889, could easily be used to describe last week’s frenetic global sugar trade: “The market has continued to move upward, with considerable rapidity and with some excitement, broken only by momentary pauses… Business has been very large and has partaken a good deal of a speculative character.”

    Updates from Liverpool produce markets into the 20th century went into superfine detail on “Messrs. Tate and Lyle’s” quotations for crystals, granulated and yellows, even citing a price for “Afternoon tea” cubes. Today, raw sugar is the most commonly quoted benchmark, though white sugar futures are studied carefully by food analysts eager to calculate margins and growth prospects for companies, including Tate & Lyle, in the refined sugar and sweetener business.

    The sugar rush in Portugal – the first European country to face a shortage of sugar in more than 30 years – was a brief, temporary affair and some forecasters predict that greater output from Brazil could actually prompt a swing into a world sugar surplus. Still, life without cheap-and-ready access to glucose is something to ponder next time the winds gather up in a crop-destroying frenzy: Valentine’s Day 2012 could be a bitter one for more than just the broken-hearted.

    • Eamonn says:

      this just goes to show how naive politicians with an inability to think to the future leave our nation badly exposed – we shut down a sugar industry that could have been adapted to produce ethanol

    • Betterworld Now says:

      Not only that, but the EU decision that all our petrol was to contain at least 5% ethanol (most of it derived from sugar) means that we Europeans are now competing with our cars for the available sugar resources of the planet.

      In a typically Irish reaction one Irish government minister increased the minimum ethanol precentage and at the same time another shut down the only sugar processing industry we had left, blaiming the EU for the closure (subsequently shown to have been a misunderstanding of the EU policy by the Irish minister).

      Can government get worse than this?

      I think we are about to find out.

    • Betterworld Now says:

      If that weren’t bad enough, the decision to force our petrol to contain at least 5% ethanol means that we Europeans are now competing with our own cars for the available sugar resources of the planet.

      The idea of people being deprived of food so that others can have a green badge on their car is abhorrent. But it is fully compliant with government and EU neo-liberal policies on bioenergy. Instead of cutting down on fuel consumption by road pricing and improved public transport we dump food into our petrol tanks, cause a shortage of food on world markets and open the way for the speculators to jack the price up.

      But hey, everyone is making a buck so its OK, because that what capitalism is all about.

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