Sugar Imports Under Tariff-Rate Quotas

The United States imports sugar under a system of tariff-rate quotas (TRQ). A TRQ is a two-tiered tariff for which the tariff rate charged depends on the volume of imports. A low-tier (in-quota) tariff is charged on imports within the quota volume. A high-tier (over-quota) tariff is charged on imports in excess of the quota volume. Almost all raw cane sugar, refined sugars and sugar syrups, and sugar-containing products are imported under TRQs for those products. (See the Policy page for more information on TRQs.)

Yearly imports under the raw and refined sugar TRQs since fiscal year (FY) 2000 have averaged 1.48 million short tons, raw value (STRV).

Most U.S. sugar imports are raw cane sugar. The raw cane sugar TRQ is allocated to 40 countries based on patterns established during the relatively unrestricted free trade period of 1975-81. The Dominican Republic, Brazil, and the Philippines hold the largest shares--approximately 17, 14, and 13 percent, respectively. Declines in the overall quantity of the quota have reduced imports from all suppliers with the exception of the 10 small suppliers whose allocations are limited to 7,258 metric tons, raw value (MTRV), a quantity considered to be equal to a minimum boatload of sugar.

As of January 1, 2008, sugar from Mexico enters the United States duty-free under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and is not subject to quota restrictions.  Since 2015, however, imports from Mexico have been subject to terms of a suspension agreement that limits prices and volumes of trade flows due to the anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigation against sugar from Mexico.

Imports and Exports Under the Sugar Re-Export Programs

USDA administers two re-export programs to help U.S. sugar refiners and manufacturers of sugar-containing products compete in world markets. The Refined Sugar Re-Export Program establishes a license against which a refiner can import world-priced sugar for refining and export as refined sugar or for sale to licensed manufacturers of sugar-containing products. The Sugar-Containing Products Re-Export Program allows U.S. participants to buy sugar from any of the refiner participants for use in products that will be exported onto the world market. Imports under the two programs are not subject to sugar TRQs.

USDA also administers the Polyhydric Alcohol Program, which provides world-priced sugar to U.S. manufacturers of polyhydric alcohols. Participating U.S. manufacturers purchase world-priced sugar from licensed refiners or their agents for use in the production of polyhydric alcohols, except polyhydric alcohols that are used as a substitute for sugar in human food consumption. U.S. sugar imports under the two Re-Export Programs and the Polyhydric Alcohol Program averaged 400,000 STRV in the 2000s.

The Refined and Sugar-Containing Products Re-Export Programs are the chief source of U.S. sugar exports. Since FY 2010, the Refined Sugar Re-Export Program averaged 257,000 STRV of exports annually, and deliveries to domestic food manufacturers under the Sugar-Containing Products Re-Export Program averaged 120,000 STRV a year.

For current data on imports and exports of sugar and sweeteners, see the Sugar and Sweeteners Yearbook tables.