Sugar production in EU forecasted to drop in MY 2020/21 due to drought and pest infestation

EUROPE – European Union (EU) sugar production is headed for a drop in the marketing year (MY) 2020/21 compared to the last two marketing years, reports United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Sugar output is forecasted to be 16 million metric tons (MT) this marketing year, one million MT below MY 2019/20 and two million MT below MY 2018/19.

The poor yields are attributed to third vast drought in a row combined with severe damages from beet yellows virus (BYV) disease, especially in France, making the bloc a net importer and pressuring a fragile sugar industry.

The MY 2019/20 EU sugar production suffered from late harvesting losses from wet weather in the UK, Germany, and Poland. EU sugar consumption for MY 2019/20 and MY 2020/21 is suffering from the COVID-19 outbreak as increased in-house sugar consumption is not fully compensating lost eating-out sugar consumption.

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The poor yields are attributed to third vast drought in a row combined with severe damages from beet yellows virus (BYV) disease

Sugar consumption in the EU food processing industry is reported to be stable. The projected shortfall in MY 2020/21 EU sugar production suggests an EU sugar deficit of 2.25 million MT to be covered by 3 million MT of imports, with EU sugar exports forecast not to exceed 1 million MT.

In MY 2019/20, the EU sugar trade balance is expected to end with a deficit of almost 1 million MT.

According to, Hellenic Shipping News, yields in France are expected to fall by 15% compared to the five-year average mainly because jaundice transmitted by aphids ravaged fields across the country.

Combined with a lower area sown, that means production of sugar beet, also used to make ethanol fuel, would fall to 31.7 million tonnes from 38.6 million in 2019, cutting French refined sugar production to 4.1 million tonnes from 4.9 million.

The lower output this year will mean a shorter production period for sugar producers at similar costs, reducing their competitiveness, Masson said. He estimated the loss for the French sugar industry at 170 million euros ($202 million).

Growers say the drop in yields could have been avoided if they had been allowed to use neonicotinoids, a pesticide banned in many parts of the European Union because it is believed to be harmful to bees.

France’s farm minister said he planned a derogation to use the pesticide on sugar beet in a bid to convince farmers not to turn away from the crop. The sugar industry is still trying to recover after years of poor returns due to a slump in sugar prices.

The drop in yields was expected to be similar in the UK but would be partly offset by a 5% rise in area, said Arthur Marshall, senior commercial analyst at NFU Sugar.

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The impact of a neonicotinoids ban was lower in Germany but sugar beet suffered from dry weather this year, farmers said.

Germany’s refined sugar production from beets in the 2020/21 season starting now is forecast to fall to about 4.12 million tonnes from 4.23 million last season, Germany’s sugar industry association WVZ said in its first harvest forecast.

In Poland, refined sugar production was preliminarily estimated to rise to around 2.2 million tonnes from 2.0 million last season, a slightly higher sugar beet yield than a year earlier, said Rafal Strachota, director of Polish beet growers’ association KZPBC.

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