Ideas that European food companies will switch from sugar to
grain-based isoglucose thanks to the deregulation of the market are "far from
true", US officials said, highlighting the costs of conversion.
Many observers have forecast a significant rise in European
Union consumption of isoglucose, termed high fructose corn syrup in the US, when
the bloc in 2017 ditches a swathe of red tape surrounding its sweeteners
This includes scrapping a limit on EU isoglucose production of
5%, as a proportion of sugar output.
Agribenchmark, a not-for-profit agricultural organisation, has
said that isoglucose will prove a "very attractive" alternative for users, in
particular, of liquid sugar, and potentially take a share of up to 30% of
Europe's sweeteners market.
Commission itself has forecast that "isoglucose is expected to
increasingly replace sugar in selected food consumption uses", and is expected
to "account for a rapidly increasing proportion of overall sweetener use,
though far less in the US's 40% or 25% in Canada and Mexico".
The commission forecast a jump in EU isoglucose production
to 2.4m tonnes in 2023, from 700,000 tonnes this year, while seeing sugar
output increase by 1.5m tonnes to 17.1m tonnes over the same period.
'Far from true'
However, US Department of Agriculture foreign staff in
Europe, noting talk of isoglucose capturing a share of up to 20% of the bloc's
sweeteners market, termed such a proposal "far from true".
"Grain prices remain high and undermine the competitiveness
of isoglucose in Europe," which produces the sweetener largely from wheat,
although with corn taking on increasing importance as a raw material.
Furthermore, for food processing companies, the appeal of
switching is reduced by "low" returns on investment, making them "hesitant to
make investments on changes in processing that would be practically irreversible,"
the USDA staff said.
"Therefore, they are not expected to switch to isoglucose
unless guaranteed to be profitable on the long term."
The comments came as the USDA officials, in their first
forecast for EU sugar production in the 2014-15 season, starting in October,
pegged it at 16.3m tonnes up 200,000 tonnes year on year.
That includes 16.0m tonnes produced from beet, up 200,000
tonnes year - a rise reflecting a recovery in German area to 380,000 hectares,
after an 11.0% tumble last season to 358,000 hectares.
Nonetheless, Germany will not in area return back above France,
with 393,000 hectares.
France enjoys higher yields too, seen remaining at 88.0
tonnes per hectare, above the 69.0 tonnes per hectare pencilled in for Germany.
UK area is seen falling 5,000 hectares to 116,000 hectares,
with yield forecast down 7.4% at 64.8 tonnes per hectare.