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New York sugar futures seen in 11-14 cents/lb range in 2019-20: analysts

New Delhi — New York No. 11 raw sugar futures are expected to trade sideways between 11 and 14 cents/lb in the 2019-20 season (October-September), Global Head of Physical Trading in Louis Dreyfus Luca Meierhofer, said at the S&P Global Platts 10th Asia Sugar & Ethanol Conference in New Delhi on Tuesday.

S&P Global Platts Head of Biofuels and Sugar Analytics Patricia Luis-Manso forecast a range for New York futures of 12-13.5 cents/lb based on current market fundamentals.

Luis-Manso said Indonesian import licenses might surface in 2019-20, which would boost demand for Thai raw sugar and support prices.

Other factors that might provide support for futures at 12 cents/lb include a stronger Brazilian real and a pick-up in hydrous ethanol demand, Luis-Manso said.

"There is no fundamental reason to go below 12 cents/lb as that would be below the cost of production. We are also expecting a sizeable deficit in 2019-20," she said.

WEAK CONSUMPTION GROWTH

Despite low sugar prices, there is a clear reduction in the growth rate of sugar consumption worldwide this year, Meierhofer said.

For 2019-20, Meierhofer estimated a sugar consumption growth rate of 0.5%, followed by 0.8% growth in 2020-21. These growth rates are much lower than the average growth rate of the last five years of 1.1%.

The slower growth rate is because of policies targeting a reduction in sugar consumption, he said adding that more than half of the global population is exposed to such policies.

GLOBAL SUPPLY DEFICIT

Meierhofer forecast a global sugar supply and demand deficit of around 6.7 million mt for 2019-20 led by a significant reduction in northern hemisphere crops.

A deficit of this size could reduce inventories by 6.7% to 92.9 million mt, but the estimated stock-to-use ratio estimated at 50.8%, or six months of global consumption, was still high, Meierhofer said.

He added that the high stocks in India, Thailand and Brazil coupled with a slowdown in sugar consumption would continue to cap global sugar prices.

"India's estimate -- at 27 million-28 million mt -- is above their consumption. It will add surplus to stocks around the world," Meierhofer said.

FACTORS AFFECTING TRADE

India's export program and Brazil's crop mix are the two major factors that will affect global sugar trade flows in 2019-20.

Brazil's crop swing capability is now around 12 million mt, meaning it can produce between 25 million and 37 million mt of sugar, which could imply extreme trade flow imbalances depending on sugar prices, Meierhofer said.

Swing capability refers to how much cane is diverted to ethanol versus sweetener when prices of sugar are less desirable.

As far as India goes, if it does not export as much sugar then there could be a greater trade-flow deficit, but there could be a major surplus if it were to go for a "full-quota" export program of 6 million mt, he added.

-- Shilpa Samant, shilpa.samant@spglobal.com

-- Brian Ng, brian.ng@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jonathan Dart, jonathan.dart@spglobal.com