Czarnikow raises estimate for world sugar surplus

Czarnikow issued a caution to bears on sugar prices even as, citing improved estimates for Brazilian and Indian output it raised its estimate for the world surplus of the sweetener.

The commodities house raised by 1.3m tonnes to 9.1m tonnes its forecast for the 2012-13 production surplus, reflecting in part a bigger forecast for world output.

The group lifted to 34.1m tonnes its estimate for production in Brazil's key Centre South region, responsible for nearly 90% of the national total.

With prospects in India, the second-ranked producing country, improved by "better-than-expected yields", world output looked like reaching 184.2m tonnes, up 3.6m tonnes from the group's December forecast, despite Australian and South African results coming in "marginally short" of forecasts.

'Increased consumer activity'

Meanwhile, Czarnikow lifted its estimate for consumption by 1.8m tonnes to 174.1m tonnes, reflecting a range of signals, including record imports in the second half of 2012 and early this year, a factor which "appears inconsistent with a slow consumption environment".

Indeed, Czarnikow also flagged a physical market which was trading at least at parity with futures, and in a mild backwardation, providing an incentive for delivery up front.

"The physical market is quite clearly reducing the incentive to hold stocks, and pointing towards increased consumer activity."

However, this included increased consumption in "much less visible" markets, a factor which prompted it to double to 1.0m tonnes its allowance for sugar put down to unrecorded disappearance, "reflecting the unknowns that we have still to identify".

Output stagnating'

Nonetheless, Czarnikow highlighted a potential hit to production from lower prices, down more than one-quarter year on year, at a time when world output growth was already slowing.

While production in the likes of Brazil has improved, "the 2012-13 cycle has nonetheless seen [world] output stagnating, with global production growing at around 2.9% compared with 6.4% and 7.8% in the previous two seasons".

While successive seasons of growing production "leave the market better placed to respond to emerging demand", the "surplus itself has in part been addressed by the fall in price".

"With global sugar prices already at levels below cane prices in many producing and exporting countries it will be interesting to see how production responds in the next cycle."

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