Unica underlined the lower quality of Brazilian cane, as it revealed that sugar output in the Centre South had retreated more than investors had expected, as rains caused some disruption to cane crushing.
The cane industry group said that, with a little over half of 2019-20 cane now harvested in the key Centre South region, responsible for more than 90% of Brazil’s crush, was coming in at 130.9 kilogrammes of recoverable sugars per tonne of crop.
That is down 3.9% year on year.
“The contraction in raw material quality greatly impacts the total amount of [cane sugars] available for conversion to sugar and ethanol,” said Antonio de Padua Rodriguez, the Unica technical director.
“We would need 13.8m tonnes of additional sugar cane to compensate for this drop in ATR [sugars] seen so far.”
The comments come the day after Conab, the official Brazilian crop bureau, cautioned over the quality of cane this season, as it trimmed expectations for the country’s sugar and ethanol output, despite an increased estimate for the cane crush.
The bureau cited ageing plantations and problems with flowering for the quality decline, also noting the growing reliance on mechanised harvesting, which introduces more impurities into the crush.
It forecast the Centre South ATR averaging 137.6 kilogrammes per tonne of cane this year, a drop of 0.9% year on year.
Cane crush falls short
Unica’s comments came as it reported Centre South sugar output of 2.13m tonnes for the first half of August - a figure which, while up 24% on a rain-interrupted crushing period during the same period of 2018, was down 14.1% from the late-July total.
It also came in a little below the 2.25m-tonne figure expected by analysts polled by S&P Global Platts, a decline which reflected in part a lower-than-expected cane crush, of 42.54m tonnes.
The Platts survey had revealed an expectation of Centre South mills processing 44.32m tonnes of cane.
Furthermore, mills converted, at 35.9%, less cane into sugar than the 36.8% figure investors had forecast.