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Russia closer to self-sufficiency in sugar, imports slide

Reuters, 08.12.15


MOSCOW/LONDON - Russia, once the world's biggest raw sugar importer, will slash its imports by more than expected in 2015/16 after a bumper beet harvest, moving the country closer to self-sufficiency.

Russia's harvest is expected to be close to a record due to attractive domestic sugar prices, a larger planted area and favourable weather, crop analysts said.

The abundant harvest will reduce Russia's import requirement by around half year-on-year to as little as 300,000-380,000 tons in 2015/16, Russian producers and analysts said.

European and Asia-based analysts have predicted raw sugar imports to Russia of up to 500,000 tons, but said that if domestic output exceeded expectations, imports would fall.

Andrei Bodin, chairman of Russia's producers' union, said he expected raws imports in 2015/16 at 300,000 tons and this year's domestic sugar production at 5.0-5.1 million tons, up by 660,000 tons from the previous year.

His forecast is near the record sugar production of 5.1 million tons in 2011/12.

Yevgeny Ivanov of consultancy IKAR forecast 2015/16 raw sugar imports at 380,000 tons and output at 5 million tons.

"It is an optimistic estimate (imports). It can be even less," Ivanov said.

Sergey Gudoshnikov, a senior economist with the International Sugar Organization, said the ISO's forecast of 4.9 million tons of Russian output in 2015/16 could be too low.

"Seemingly we were too conservative, but the campaign is not over yet and late surprises are still possible," he said.

Gudoshnikov forecast 2015/16 raw sugar imports at 425,000 tons, higher than the estimates of Russia-based producers and analysts.

Russia was the world's top raw sugar importer a decade ago, importing primarily Brazilian sugarvia Black Sea ports.

However, in recent years Russia has moved towards self-sufficiency due to a larger planted area.

Bodin said he expected Russia to become self-sufficient in 2020 with an annual production of 5.6-5.7 million tons.

Domestic sugar consumption this year was expected to be 5.75 million tons, IKAR said.

Bodin said he expected raw sugar imports to Russia in 2015/16 to be among the lowest in history.

With domestic consumption of 5.4 million tons and (duty free) supplies from Belarus, there is no need for more than 300,000 tons of imports, he said.

Tom McNeill, director of analyst Green Pool, who has forecast raw sugar imports of around 500,000 tons in 2015/16, said: "If Russia does produce more than 5 million tons, we will need to revise imports downwards."



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