Chuck Woods (352) 392-1773 x 281
Tom Spreen (352) 392-1826, ext. 209
Andrew Schmitz (352) 392-1845, ext. 415
Bill Messina (352) 392-1881, ext. 308
MIAMI—With new and existing trade agreements expected to reshape the multibillion dollar global sugar and sweetener market — which includes Florida’s $l.2 billion sugarcane industry — experts from around the world will gather in Miami Nov. 14-16 for a conference on Sweetener Markets in the 21st Century.
The conference will be held at the Embassy Suites Hotel at Miami International Airport, bringing together more than 40 leading sweetener industry authorities from both the private and public sectors and academia to discuss the challenges and issues facing the industry in the next century, said Tom Spreen, conference coordinator and professor of agricultural economics with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) in Gainesville.
Organized by the UF/IFAS Department of Food and Resource Economics, the conference is co-sponsored by the American Farm Bureau Federation; Florida Farm Bureau Federation; Universidad Veracruzana, Mexico; University of the West Indies, St. Augustine campus, Trinidad and Tobago; UF Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER); UF Center for Latin American Studies; UF/IFAS International Agricultural Trade and Development Center; UF/IFAS Center for Agribusiness, and the Latin American and Caribbean Center (LACC) at Florida International University in Miami.
Andrew Schmitz, eminent scholar and professor of agricultural economics with UF/IFAS, said changes in current trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), new agreements such as the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the next round of World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations have the potential to reshape the global market for sweeteners — a market that encompasses not only sucrose derived from sugarcane and sugar beets, but also high fructose corn syrup.
“More than 125 nations produce sugar, and nearly all of them protect their producers through some form of trade and/or marketing policies,” Schmitz said. “Provisions of NAFTA already threaten the structure and function of the United States sugar program. And, if the FTAA agreement is passed, it will create a free trade zone encompassing 34 countries in the Western Hemisphere, bringing Brazil into a free trade zone with the U.S.
“With four million hectares of sugarcane, Brazil is one of the largest sugar producing countries in the world — a major player in the global sugar and sweetener market. At present, Brazil diverts about half of its sugarcane production to ethanol production, but if market forces caused a change in that allocation, it would have a major impact on sugar markets,” he said.
Schmitz said it is likely that Brazil, a low cost sugar producer in the Western Hemisphere, could become the dominant supplier of sugar to North America under the proposed FTAA agreement. Another source of concern is the potential recovery of Cuba’s sugar industry. If previous production levels are achieved, Cuba could be exporting six million metric tons to an already saturated world market.
Exports of sugar are an important source of foreign exchange for many developing countries throughout the world, he said. The U.S. and the European Union (E.U.) both grant preferential access to their sugar markets for selected countries in the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Asia and Africa.
“Similar trade preferences granted by the E.U. to banana producers in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific countries are presently under attack in the WTO,” Spreen said. “Recent adverse rulings by the WTO on the E.U. banana regime could call into question the legality of both the U.S. and E.U. sugar trade regimes under WTO guidelines. This sets the stage for potentially difficult negotiations in the context of the upcoming round of WTO negotiations set to begin later this year.”
For conference and registration information, visit the following Web site:http://www.fred.ifas.ufl.edu/conference/sweetener21.html