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US Sugar Industry “Doing As Good As Anyone in Agriculture” During Pandemic

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Earlier this month, the USDA announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) aimed to help farmers and ranchers who have m been struggling with low prices.

Various sectors of agriculture will be receiving direct payments from USDA by the end of May. However, since the U.S. is the third largest importer of sugar, sugarbeet producers won’t see any money from the program.

“Most of these assistance programs are for areas where you’ve got export products [where the] markets have been hit,” said Luther Markwart, executive vice president with the American Sugarbeet Growers Association. “We’re an industry that’s been doing all the right things. Our commodity prices are holding fine because we’re a major importer.”

Stocks were getting lower because of the pandemic. Last month, USDA increased imports by 1 billion pounds. Despite the import increase, Markwart says there’s nothing to be concerned about.

“At least when it comes to sugar, everybody can take a sigh of relief,” he said. “Everything is going to be fine. Bottom line is sugar is probably doing as good as anybody in the agricultural field right now.”

When the pandemic began, stores were selling out of essential food products such as milk, flour and sugar. ASGA has been talking to members Congress about the shift from restaurants or other institutions receiving the product to the retail consumer. Markwart says the sugar industry has been adapting to this change.

“Consumers should know is that there’s an adequate supply of sugar,” said Markwart. “You don’t need to hoard it—it’s going to be there. If it’s not there, it’s because a truck was maybe late. You don’t need to have 100 pounds in your pantry.”

ASGA recently renewed a five-year suspension agreement with Mexico suspend duties on sugar. Markwart says it’s great news for the stability of the U.S. sugar market and won’t allow Mexico to dump product.