Sugar: production, trade and policy profiles for South Africa and other selected African countries

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Sugar: production, trade and policy profiles for South Africa and other selected African countries

Sugar: production, trade and policy profiles for South Africa and other selected African countries

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Working Papers ~ Ron Sandrey and Masego Moobi

While agricultural protection has been declining in recent years, several sectors remain heavily protected in many countries. These sectors include sugar, rice and dairy, and this paper will concentrate upon the first of these, namely sugar. Sugar is in some ways a scenario of two different sectors coming together with one product. These sectors are the sugar-beet industry in the EU in particular and the sugar-cane sector in many less developed countries. In general, the former is more heavily protected while global trade (excluding intra-EU trade) features cane sugar to a greater extent. It used to be that the production costs of sugar from beet were significantly higher than cane, but that situation is changing.

Despite being heavily protected and global sugar trading in a series of complex regimes that include high tariffs, quotas and preferential access, sugar trading represents a significant share of total agricultural exports globally. An analysis of global agricultural trade reveals that sugar (as defined by HS 1701 that includes both beet and cane sugar) had a trade value of $27.9 billion during 2014. This value ranked sugar as the 13th most traded agricultural product at the detailed HS 4 level, and gave it a 1.75 % share of agricultural exports. These numbers were down from the 2011 sugar price spike when sugar was the fourth most traded sector by value with exports of $40 billion that constituted 2.68% of agricultural trade and placed it in third place behind wheat, soya beans and palm oils.

It is against this global background that the objective of this paper is to provide an analysis of the African sugar sector, with an emphasis on South Africa, Swaziland and Kenya. The trade data is generally from the ITC with the production data downloaded from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). The paper begins with a global profile for the production and trade of sugar and then moves on to examine the country profiles.


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