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Abundant U.S. honey supplies in 2019 lead to a decline in honey prices

Thursday, June 25, 2020

U.S. honey production has remained relatively stable over the past 10 years, averaging about 157 million pounds per year, even as producers have grappled with significant overwinter colony losses and variable honey prices. Forage-rich North Dakota leads the nation in honey production, and together with Montana and South Dakota, these Northern Plains States produced nearly half of all U.S. honey in 2019. While the volume of honey produced domestically has been relatively steady, U.S. consumption of honey and honey-sweetened products has steadily grown since the 1980s. To supplement domestic production and meet rising demand, a growing volume of honey has been imported. Beginning in 2006, imported honey has accounted for most of the U.S. supplies, reaching 416 million pounds and nearly 70 percent of total supplies for 2019. Imports combined with beginning stocks and production made about 614 million pounds of honey available in 2019—the third highest volume on record. Abundant supplies contributed to lower prices received by producers, with prices decreasing by 24 cents per pound for a year-to-year decline of 11 percent. Lower honey prices in 2019 gave rise to a $30 million (9 percent) decline in revenue received by U.S. beekeepers from honey production. Reduced returns from honey production were exacerbated by a more than $9 million reduction in net income derived from the provision of pollination services and sales of bee products (e.g. queens, beeswax). This chart is drawn from the Economic Research Service’s June 2020 Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook.

Weather sours U.S. and Mexican sugar production in 2019/20

Monday, March 9, 2020

Sugar production in the United States and globally is dependent upon two crops: sugarbeets, grown in higher, typically colder latitudes; and sugarcane, which grows in lower, typically more tropical latitudes. Poor weather conditions have diminished the production outlook for both the U.S. sugarbeet crop—particularly in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana—and the sugarcane crop, especially in Louisiana. Sugar output is also expected to be significantly lower for 2019/20 in Mexico—the United States’ largest foreign sugar supplier—as drought conditions in several key sugarcane-producing regions are expected to reduce output considerably. The combined 2019/20 U.S. and Mexican sugar production is projected to be 9.7 percent below that in 2018/19, the lowest collective output since 2011/12. The reduced supply expectations are the main reason why the U.S. sugar market is forecast to be at its tightest since 2010/11, and why current U.S. wholesale refined sugar prices are 19 percent higher for cane sugar and 26 percent higher for beet sugar compared with a year ago. This chart is based on information in the Economic Research Service Sugar and Sweeteners Monthly Outlook Report and the Sugar and Sweetener Yearbook Tables.

Poor weather during sugarbeet harvest reduces expected U.S. sugar production for 2019/20

Monday, December 9, 2019

The 2019/20 sugarbeet crop (which operates on an August-to-July crop year) was significantly affected by poor weather during the harvest season. Cold and wet conditions resulted in frozen ground in many regions—particularly in the major-producing States of Minnesota and North Dakota. Sugarbeets had to be left in the ground, unharvested, as equipment could not dig into the frozen soil to harvest this root vegetable, and many that were harvested late in the season were damaged and deemed unsuitable for processing. According to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (NASS) November 1 forecast, 14 percent of planted sugarbeet acreage is expected to go unharvested. In a typical year, 1.5 percent to 3.5 percent of the crop goes unharvested. The reduction in sugarbeet production accounts for a 5-percent decline in expected domestic sugar production, compared with October USDA forecasts. This chart is based on data in the ERS Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook released in November 2019.

Per capita sweetener deliveries steadily declining largely due to reduced demand for high-fructose corn syrup

Friday, November 1, 2019

Total caloric sweetener deliveries in 2018 totaled over 40.7 billion pounds on a dry weight basis (water content removed), down 2 percent from 2017. This translates to 124.4 pounds per person, a 2.6-percent decline from the previous year. Refined sugar continues to make up an increasing share of per capita deliveries, while corn-based sweeteners, particularly high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), have trended downward since the early 2000s. On a per-person basis, deliveries of HFCS have fallen 40 percent since 2000, while refined sugar increased by 5 percent over the same period. This period coincided with various occurrences—higher input prices from global commodity price spikes; the growth of corn-based domestic ethanol production; increased imports of sugar supplies from Mexico; and greater attention to food labels by food manufacturers and consumers. However, per capita refined-sugar deliveries have declined slightly since 2016, suggesting a broader decline in caloric sweetener demand. Other caloric sweeteners, such as the corn sweeteners dextrose and glucose, and other sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, molasses syrups, and fructose syrups, make up a relatively minor share of total deliveries. This chart appears in the ERS Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook newsletter released in August 2017.

Per capita sweetener deliveries show steady downturn largely due to reduced demand for high fructose corn syrup

Monday, October 7, 2019

Total caloric sweetener deliveries in the United States in 2018 totaled over 40.7 billion pounds (124.4 pounds per person) on a dry weight basis (water content removed), down 2 percent from 2017. The refined sugar share of per capita deliveries continues to rise as the corn-based sweeteners share, particularly high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), has trended downward since the early 2000s. On a per person basis, deliveries of HFCS have fallen 40 percent since 2000, while refined sugar increased by 5 percent over the same period. This period coincided with higher input prices from global commodity price spikes; growth of corn-based domestic ethanol production; increased availability of sugar supplies because of increased imports from Mexico; and greater attention to food labels by food manufacturers and consumers. Nonetheless, per capita refined sugar deliveries have declined slightly since 2016, suggesting a broader decline in caloric sweetener demand. Other caloric sweeteners, such as the corn sweeteners dextrose and glucose, honey, maple syrup, molasses syrups, and fructose syrups, make up a relatively minor share of total deliveries. This chart appears in the ERS Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook newsletter released in August 2017.

Low sugar prices on the world market help spur Brazil’s ethanol production

Thursday, July 11, 2019

In 2017/18, global sugar production reached record levels, leading to a sharp and sustained drop in sugar prices on the world market. Lower global sugar prices have translated to diminished returns for sugar producers. Brazil’s sugarcane sector has adapted to low returns for sugar exports by processing a higher share of sugarcane for ethanol production. In 2018/19, only about one-third of sugarcane harvested in Brazil’s main Center-South Region was crushed for sugar production—a substantially lower share than in the past decade. The remainder was processed into ethanol. This change in sugarcane usage represents a 26-percent decrease in sugar use relative to 2017/18 and a 16-percent increase in ethanol use. In Brazil, hydrous ethanol has increased its market share against gasoline for the past several years, as most Brazilians drive flex fuel vehicles (FFV)—cars that can use both gasoline which includes ethanol in its blend or pure hydrous ethanol. This extensive use of ethanol is economically feasible as ethanol has grown increasingly competitive against rising gas prices, particularly in the Sao Paulo and Center-South fuel markets, which are close to sugarcane ethanol processing facilities. Increased ethanol production in Brazil also influences the U.S. ethanol market because Brazil is a major importer of U.S.-produced ethanol. This chart appears in the ERS Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook report released in June 2019.

Honey bee colony levels have remained stable despite elevated loss rates

Friday, October 5, 2018

In 2006, large and mysterious losses of honey bee colonies led entomologists to classify a set of diagnostic symptoms as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and spurred major efforts to measure, quantify, and understand pollinator loss. New data show that, between 2007 and 2013, winter colony loss rates in the United States averaged 30 percent, which is approximately double the loss rate of 15 percent previously thought to be normal. Elevated winter colony losses, however, have not resulted in enduring declines in colony numbers. Instead, the number of U.S. honey bee colonies is either stable or growing depending on the dataset being considered. At the State level, loss rates are uncorrelated with year-to-year changes in the number of colonies, suggesting that beekeepers are able to replace lost colonies within the course of a calendar year. In other terms, the data indicate that beekeepers are adding colonies at similar or higher rates than they are losing them to CCD or other causes. This chart appears in the October 2018 ERS Amber Waves article, “Despite Elevated Loss Rate Since 2006, U.S. Honey Bee Colony Numbers Are Stable or Growing.

Global sugar production surplus is expected to continue, putting downward pressure on prices

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Favorable growing conditions in South and Southeast Asia raised global sugar production forecasts for the 2017/18 marketing year, increasing the estimated production surplus for the global sugar market to its highest level in several decades. Production surplus can be defined as global sugar production minus the amount of sugar consumed each year. A positive production surplus results in rising stocks of sugar held in storage around the world, which puts downward pressure on global sugar prices. Production in 2018/19 is projected to decrease from the previous year but still be sizable by historical standards due to higher production forecasts for India and Thailand, in particular. As a result, supplies are projected to outpace use and increase global stocks-to-use ratios, limiting opportunities for price increases in world sugar futures markets, which have been falling since October 2016. The average world futures contract price in the April-to-June quarter was 11.91 cents per pound, which was 21.5 percent lower than the previous year. This chart appears in the ERS Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook newsletter released in June 2018.

U.S. honey is increasingly supplied through imports

Monday, June 4, 2018

Domestic production of honey is significantly exceeded by the amount of honey imported into the United States each year. Since 2006, more than half of all honey supplied in the United States was imported, and that number reached 70 percent in 2017. This represents the highest import level on record, continuing the longer term trend of a growing share of honey supplies coming from foreign sources. The largest foreign source of honey in 2017 was India, outpacing Vietnam and Argentina, the second and third leading sources, respectively. Although U.S. honey imports were recorded for many different countries in 2017, the top five foreign suppliers (Vietnam, Argentina, India, Brazil, and Ukraine) accounted for 77 percent of total imports. While imports have risen in quantity as well as in share of supply, national average honey prices for domestic honey remain high. In 2017, wholesale prices averaged 215.6 cents per pound, just below the 2014 record of 216.1 and more than twice as high as prices in the mid-2000s. This chart appears in a special article in the ERS Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook released in May 2018.

U.S. wholesale beet and cane sugar prices return to more similar levels in 2016/17

Thursday, January 18, 2018

One of the major developments in the U.S. sugar market during the 2016/17 marketing year occurred when the beet and cane sugar sectors returned to the levels of the broader market. Ending stocks for cane and beet sugars diverged significantly in 2015/16, with extremely tight cane sugar supplies and ample beet sugar inventories. This resulted in large price differences in refined cane and beet sugars. The price differential also played an important role in reconciling the divergences in the cane and beet sugar sectors. Wholesale spot prices of refined cane sugar began the year at a 5.5-cent per pound premium to refined beet sugar. That premium grew to nearly 8 cents by March before narrowing to 2.5 cents by the end of the year. With demand for sugar continuing to grow steadily, the relative beet sugar price discount was one of the key market drivers that spurred the large beet sugar deliveries and drew down inventories. While the price differential narrowed, refined cane sugar prices finished the year higher than they started, reflecting both the constrained supplies in the cane sugar sector and the broader U.S. refined sugar market. This chart is drawn from the special article Beet and Cane Sugar Inventories Return to Comparable Levels After Divergence in 2015/16, published in the November ERS Sugar and Sweeteners Outlooknewsletter.

Per capita sweetener deliveries steadily declining due to reduced high fructose corn syrup demand

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Total caloric sweetener deliveries in 2016 totaled over 41 billion pounds on a dry weight basis (water content removed), down marginally from 2015. This translates to 128.1 pounds per person, a 0.7-percent decline from the previous year. Refined sugar continues to make an increasing share of per capita deliveries as corn-based sweeteners, particularly high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), has trended downward since the early 2000s. On a per person basis, deliveries of HFCS have fallen 34 percent since 2000, while refined sugar increased by 6 percent over the same period. This period coincided with higher input prices from global commodity price spikes; the growth of the corn-based domestic ethanol production; increased availability of sugar supplies because of increased imports from Mexico; and greater attention to food labels by food manufacturers and consumers. Other caloric sweeteners, such as the corn sweeteners dextrose and glucose, honey, maple syrup, molasses syrups, and fructose syrups, make up a relatively minor share of total deliveries. This chart appears in the ERS Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook newsletter, released in August 2017.

Domestic use of high fructose corn syrup continues to decline

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Domestic use of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has been generally in decline since 2006. With the exception of marketing year 2013/14, when there was a slight uptick, usage numbers generally leveled off since 2012/13. The latest yearly data, however, indicates that domestic HFCS use may still be trending lower. HFCS is marketed in two primary compositions: HFCS-55 and HFCS-42. HFCS-55 contains 55 percent fructose and is used primarily in soft drinks, while HFCS-42, which contains 42 percent fructose, is used in a broader range of goods, including other beverages and baked foods. The long-term decline in HFCS consumption has primarily been the result of a reduction in HFCS-42. The cause of this decline has been driven by consumer demand for healthier alternatives, rising exports, and greater availability of substitutes. This chart appears in the ERS Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook report released in January 2017.

Brazil remains the largest global sugar exporter

Friday, January 13, 2017

Brazil is projected to remain the dominant sugar exporter in the 2016/17 marketing year, accounting for nearly 49 percent of global exports. Exports from Brazil are projected to increase by 11 percent in 2016/17 as more of the country’s sugarcane crop is produced into sugar, rather than ethanol. Exports declined in 2013/14 and 2014/15, before a small rebound in 2015/16, as financial returns for ethanol incentivized production away from sugar production. Even with periods of declining exports, Brazil has remained the most important producer in global sugar trade, accounting for no less than 44 percent of market share since 2008/09. Major competitors, such as Thailand, have increased their market share, particularly in the past 5 years, and are projected to increase their exports by 4 percent in 2016/17. This chart draws from the Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook report published in December 2016.

Tighter global sugar supplies support recent price increases

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

World raw sugar prices increased in the 2015/16 marketing year after a four-year decline from 2010/11. Projections for 2016/17 support higher prices continuing through 2017. Projected human sugar consumption is expected to be greater than production for the second consecutive year, after a prolonged period of surplus production during the years of declining prices. Due to the global production deficit, global inventories are projected to be drawn down again in 2016/17, resulting in the lowest stocks-to-use ratio in more than 20 years. Through the first two months of 2016/17, raw sugar prices have been 50 percent higher than the previous year, due in large part to the relatively tight supply and use market outlook. This chart draws from the Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook report published in December 2016.

U.S. sugar production projected to reach record levels in 2017

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

U.S. sugar production is forecast to reach a fiscal year record in 2016/17 of 9.4 million short tons, raw value (STRV), 5.5 percent above the current estimate of 8.9 million STRV for 2015/16, and nearly 400,000 more than the previous record set in 1999/00. Sugar production in the United States is sourced from two distinct crops, sugarbeets and sugarcane. The majority – an average of 56.4 percent since 2000/01 – has come from sugarbeets. The leading producer of sugarbeets in the United States is Minnesota, followed by Idaho, North Dakota, and Michigan. Those four States represented 83 of production in 2015. Sugarcane production is even more concentrated, with 91 percent of production occurring in Florida and Louisiana. Domestic production for both sources of sugar increased in 2014/15 and is forecast to continue growing in 2015/16 and 2016/17. A significant portion of the production gains is expected to come from higher yields and sugar recovery rates, particularly for sugarbeets in 2016/17. This chart uses data from the ERS Sugar and Sweeteners Yearbook tables and draws from the Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook report published in October 2016.

Availability of refined sugars has been higher than corn sweeteners since 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2016

In 2014, 131.0 pounds per person of caloric sweeteners were available for consumption by U.S. consumers, down from a high of 153.1 pounds per person in 1999. Availability of total corn sweeteners (high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), glucose syrup, and dextrose) contributed to the drop, falling from its peak of 85.2 pounds per person in 1999 to 60.7 pounds per person in 2014. High corn prices, price competition with refined cane and beet sugars and other caloric sweeteners, as well as shifting preferences among consumers and food manufacturers have contributed to this decline. Availability of refined cane and beet sugars fell from 101.8 pounds per person in 1970 to 62.7 pounds per person in 1985, then remained relatively flat for the next two and a half decades. Refined sugar availability began to rise in 2011, surpassing corn sweetener availability and reaching 68.3 pounds per person in 2014. Rising honey imports have contributed to recent increases in per capita honey availability. In 2014, per capita honey availability stood at 1.2 pounds and per capita availability of edible syrups was 0.8 pounds. This chart is from ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated October 11, 2016.

Louisiana sugarcane crop conditions downgraded after flooding

Friday, October 7, 2016

Heavy rainfall and severe flooding in Louisiana affected the State’s sugarcane crop, according to USDA crop condition ratings, which were rated positively prior to the severe weather. Lafayette, LA, centered near the state’s main sugarcane region, recorded August precipitation that was 5 times larger than normal. Following the floods, significant portions of the crop were downgraded from Excellent or Good ratings to Fair. Additionally, sugarcane rated Poor or Very Poor increased from 2 percent prior to the severe weather to a peak of 9 percent afterward. Fortunately, crop ratings have improved during September and are currently comparable with crop conditions in 2015/16. With the sugarcane harvest in Louisiana typically beginning in late September and continuing through January, Louisiana sugar production in 2015/16 is still expected to be about 15 percent larger than the previous year due to increased harvested acreage and sugarcane yields in the State. This chart appears in the ERS Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook report in September 2016.

U.S. sugar and sweetener trade with Mexico grew under NAFTA

Monday, August 22, 2016

Agreement by the United States and Mexico to implement the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with respect to bilateral trade in sugar and sweeteners starting in fiscal year 2008 led to a substantial increase in this trade. During fiscal years 2011-15, U.S. sugar imports from Mexico averaged about 1.5 million metric tons per year—contributing about 12 percent of the U.S. sugar supply—and U.S. exports of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to Mexico averaged about 950,000 metric tons—equal to about 12 percent of U.S. production. Agreements reached in December 2014 to suspend U.S. antidumping and countervailing duty investigations on sugar imports from Mexico imposed new restrictions on the quantity, price, and composition of U.S. imports of Mexican sugar. However, these measures still allow for larger volumes of trade than prevailed before 2008, and before the start of NAFTA’s implementation back in 1994. This chart is from the ERS report, A New Outlook for the U.S.-Mexico Sugar and Sweetener Market released on August 11, 2016.

U.S. honey consumption per person has risen in recent years

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

While Americans’ per capita consumption of all caloric sweeteners has been falling for the last decade and a half, per capita honey consumption has been on an upward trend. In 2014, Americans consumed an average of 0.9 pound of honey per person, according to ERS’s Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data, up from 0.5 pound in 1990. Much of the increased honey consumption is imported honey. Honey imports in 2014 totaled 365.3 million pounds, up from an average of 104.4 million pounds per year in the early 1990s. Domestic net production of honey (domestic production minus exports and stocks), once at an average of 167.9 million pounds in the early 1990s, has fallen to an average of 106.7 million pounds in the last 7 years, despite short-term increases in 2010 and 2014. Weakening colony strength from multiple honey bee health challenges and changes in land use patterns are among the factors contributing to declining domestic honey production. The data for this chart come from the Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data series in ERS's Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System and the Sugar and Sweeteners Yearbook Tables.

Americans are consuming less caloric sweeteners, with children leading the way

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A recent linking of ERS’s loss-adjusted food availability data with intake surveys from 1994-2008 reveals that American children are doing a better job of cutting down on sugary beverages and other sweetened foods than adults are. In 1994-98, children ages 2 to 19 consumed 94.0 pounds per person per year of caloric sweeteners compared with 81.4 pounds consumed by adults. Over the next decade, per-capita consumption of caloric sweeteners by children fell to 77.4 pounds per year, while adults’ consumption rose before returning to 1994-98 levels. Caloric sweeteners include cane and beet sugar, high fructose corn sweeteners, glucose, dextrose, honey, and edible syrups—common ingredients in sweetened beverages, baked goods, spaghetti sauces, ketchups, and a host of other processed foods. Over 1994-2008, consumption of sweeteners declined across all income and race/ethnicity groups, with Hispanics and other races/ethnicities consuming less caloric sweeteners than non-Hispanic Whites and non-Hispanic Blacks. The data for this chart and similar information on 62 other food commodities can be found in the ERS report, U.S. Food Commodity Consumption Broken Down by Demographics, 1994-2008, March 2016.

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