Australian sugar sweeter thanks to market appetite

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There’s growing confidence among Australia’s sugar producers due to the strength in sugar prices according to a survey by agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank.

AAP released a media release today that said there’s also likely to be support for prices to be maintained in the 2016/17 season, with Rabobank’s recently-released Sugar Quarterly report forecasting season of 7.2 million tonnes down from 7.6M.

Report co-author Rabobank commodity analyst Georgia Twomey told AAP the likelihood of this substantial global deficit in 2016/17 was already priced into the market, with prices up around 50 per cent on last year’s average.

“Following the dramatic run-up in prices earlier in the year, New York #11 futures have stabilised over the past three months to trade in a fairly narrow range of USc19/lb to USc21/lb,” Ms Twomey said.

“Of course, sooner or later, there is likely to be a break-out from the current price range, however there is more upside than downside to the price outlook.”

Ms Twomey said prices would be largely dictated by the size of the Indian, Thai and Centre/South Brazilian crop and, while some certainty around the size of their crop was still months away, any downward revision to expectations would drive prices higher. 

The size of the Australian crop was also uncertain, Ms Twomey said, with wet weather creating challenging harvesting conditions.

“As at the start of September, harvest is around 23 per cent behind where we were this time last year,” she said, “with the crush only 40 per cent complete and mills extending their finish dates into December and possibly, January.”

Ms Twomey said while wet weather was the major constraint to the Australian sugar harvest, if it was all harvested, it was expected to reach in the vicinity of 36 million tonnes of cane – the largest harvest since 2005.

“While growers are citing concerns around the impact of the wet on their CCS levels, this is largely outweighed by the price improvement, with market fundamentals remaining very supportive for the 2016/17 season,” she said.

The largest downside risk to the outlook is the large net-long position held by the fund speculators, Ms Twomey said.

“While their current trade position is making the sugar market vulnerable to macro-shocks, we believe any such downturn would be relatively short-lived given the positive outlook for prices.”