ECONOMIC BRIEFS

220,000 tons of sugar ready to supply Slovak market

Unfavorable weather conditions have prevented sugar beet farmers from harvesting almost 50% of the 1998 crop so far, creating a sugar industry shortage that threatens to last far into 1999.

Sugar producers associated in the Slovak Sugar Mills Association said they felt responsible for the Slovak sugar market. "We can solve the situation on the sugar market even if the sugar crop is insufficient, because it's no problem to import sugar. But we are against speculation by various sugar traders," association director Robert Straka said of the sugar situation in Slovakia.

Instead of such speculation, Straka proposed moderate price increases. Some Slovak sugar mills, he explained, have had to stop sugar processing because of the shortage of sugar beet. "The fact that they are running on low capacity will push production costs higher but we expect only a moderate increase in prices in 1999," said Straka. "It is not a cartel deal, we are just demanding real prices. We would be satisfied with a price that was 3% above costs." Before the beginning of the 1999 sugar-processing season, Slovakia will have to import several thousands tons of sugar.

According to revised figures, Slovak sugar mills should produce 165-170,000 tons of sugar this year, and still have 20,000 tons left over from last year's supplies. The State Fund of Market Regulation still holds 14,000 tons, while the Administration of State Reserves can contribute an additional 20,000 tons. Straka said that in total, Slovakia had some 220,000 tons of sugar reserves.

Slovak sugar mills sold 140,000 tons of sugar in the first ten months of 1998, and are expecting FY98 sales of 170-180,000 tons. "We have to realize that the market no longer consumes 240,000 tons annually," Straka said.

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