U.S. sugar exports to Mexico rise to levels seen during NAFTA years

Vertical bar and line chart showing U.S. sugar exports to Mexico and sugar production in Mexico between fiscal years 2008 and 2024.

U.S. sugar exports for fiscal year 2024 are forecast to be the largest in 6 years, rising to an estimated 160,000 short tons, raw value (STRV) in the February 2024 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report. About 88 percent of that volume is expected to go to Mexico, where sugar production has fallen to a 15-year low. This would put U.S. sugar exports to Mexico on par with those during 2008–13, when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was active. Under NAFTA, Mexico could import U.S. sugar without tariffs or quotas, and U.S. exports averaged 167,000 STRV while the trade agreement was in effect. At the time, most of the sugar was imported by Mexico-based manufacturers participating in a promotion program commonly known as IMMEX. The program provided tax incentives if the companies used imported U.S. sugar in food products that would be re-exported within a certain amount of time. In 2014, in response to U.S. investigations into subsidies affecting sugar imports from Mexico, the two countries reached agreements that suspended the investigations and restricted the price and quantity of Mexico’s sugar exports to the United States. Mexico then declared that sugar imported from the United States would no longer qualify for duty-free treatment under IMMEX if that sugar was the beneficiary of the U.S. version of a re-export program. After that, U.S. sugar exports to Mexico fell to below 50,000 STRV, on average, each fiscal year. In the last 2 years, however, the United States increased its sugar exports to Mexico as U.S. domestic beet and cane sugar production rose and Mexico experienced back-to-back years of low production related to drought and reduced fertilizer use. This chart is based on information in the USDA, Economic Research Service’s Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook: February 2024.

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