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Kraft, ConAgra want higher sugar quoatas
Bloomberg News
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Published: 8/7/2009 2:19 PM

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A coalition of food companies including General Mills Inc., Kraft Foods Inc. and ConAgra Foods Inc. asked the U.S. government to increase sugar-import quotas after inventories fell to a 34-year low and prices surged.

Kraft Foods is based in Northfield and ConAgra has operations in St. Charles.

The Sugar Policy Alliance, which also includes Mars Inc., Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. and Hershey Co., wants to import more from Brazil, the world’s largest producer of the sweetener, the Philippines and elsewhere, according to a letter sent to Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Sugar futures in New York have jumped to the highest in 28 years.

“Without allowing additional imports to enter the market, consumers will pay higher prices and domestic food manufacturing jobs will be at risk,” the alliance said today in a statement.

The ratio of sugar stocks to total use in the U.S. in the year that ends Sept. 30 will drop to 10 percent, the lowest since 1975, USDA data show.

“We’re closely monitoring market developments,” USDA spokesman Justin DeJong said in an e-mail.

Raw-sugar futures for October delivery rose 0.85 cent, or 4.3 percent, to 20.65 cents a pound at 12:15 p.m. on ICE Futures U.S. in New York. Earlier, the price touched 20.79 cents, the highest for a most-active contract since April 1, 1981.

Prices have soared as output dropped in India, the world’s biggest producer behind Brazil and the largest consumer.

Sugar is the only major U.S. crop under import restrictions. The U.S. limits shipments to benefit the domestic industry.

Imports are managed through Tariff Rate Quota programs for raw and refined sugar, limiting purchases from almost all countries. Last year, Mexican shipments were unlimited under the North American Free Trade Agreement.