The US Department of Agriculture in its Feb. 8 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report lowered from January its forecast of 2022-23 US cane sugar production, more than offsetting slight increases in beginning stocks and imports and higher beet sugar production, resulting in slight decreases in sugar ending stocks and the ending stocks-to-use ratio. 

The USDA forecast 2022-23 cane sugar production at 4,131,000 tons, down 68,356 tons from January as declines in Louisiana and Texas more than offset higher production in Florida. Beet sugar production was forecast at 5,100,000 tons, up 51,898 tons from January, with total sugar production forecast at 9,231,000 tons, down about 17,000 tons from a month ago. In realized, 2022-23 cane sugar production would be the second highest on record after 2020-21 and total sugar production would be the third highest on record after 2020-21 and 2017-18.

“Louisiana sugar production is reduced by 82,858 tons to 2.03 million,” the USDA said. “With the sugar campaign ended, USDA contacted mills regarding final crop year production. Mills confirmed that yields were off from earlier USDA estimates due to the freeze in late December.”

Forecast higher production in Florida and lower production in Texas were based on processors’ forecasts in the Sweetener Market Data (SMD) report, the USDA said.

“Based on (beet) sugar production data for August through December in the SMD, USDA increases its projection of sucrose recovery from 15% to 15.204%,” the USDA said. “Cumulative sucrose recovery for the five months is estimated at 15.433%. This estimate is statistically close to full season recovery, but USDA is exercising some caution in recognition of statistical variance.”

The USDA noted that five-month average sucrose recovery rates exceeded the 10-year average in all major sugar beet regions. 

“The (beet sugar) increase due to the higher recovery rate is offset partially by a 10,000-ton reduction in August-September 2023 production due to the closure of the beet facility in Sidney, Mont.,” the USDA said.

Some in the trade had expected the USDA to lower 2022-23 beet sugar production after already seeing the January forecast as too high, and some also expected a lower estimate for Florida after adverse weather was thought to have trimmed cane production there. 

Total imports in 2022-23 were forecast at 3,463,000 tons, up 4,725 tons from January due to a like increase in tariff-rate quota imports, forecast at 1,611,000 tons, because of 2021-22 TRQ entering in December. Unchanged from January were imports from Mexico at 1,477,000 tons, high-tier imports at 125,000 tons and other program imports at 250,000 tons.

Total US sugar supply in 2022-23 was forecast at 14,514,000 tons, down 10,135 tons from January but up 6,000 tons from 14,508,000 tons in 2021-22.

There were no changes from February in forecast sugar use, including deliveries for food at 12,500,000 tons.

Ending stocks were forecast at 1,874,000 tons, down 10,135 tons from January but up 54,000 tons from 2021-22. The ending stocks-to-use ratio was forecast at 14.8%, down from 14.9% in January but up from 14.3% in 2021-22.

Offsetting minor changes were made to Mexico’s forecast sugar use and exports for 2022-23, resulting in ending stocks unchanged from January at 971,000 tonnes, actual weight. Forecast sugar production was unchanged at 5,900,000 tonnes. The USDA noted that “we are soon to enter the period in which USDA forecasting based on to-date progress has enough statistical validity for updating the USDA projection.” Some in the trade believe the 2022-23 production forecast is too high based on a slow start to the season in Mexico and sugar cane yields and sucrose recovery through late January still “far below” historical levels.