Government Figures Show Grocers Aren't Passing Sugar Savings on to Consumers

New government figures reveal that, while the price
American farmers receive for their sugar has been running at its lowest level in more than two decades, the big grocers nationwide have jacked up the price they charge consumers for sugar to a 20-year high.

Recently published data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the July average retail refined sugar price in the U.S., the price of sugar on the grocery-store shelf, rose to 44.3 cents per pound, the first time that price has reached 44 cents since April 1981.

Meanwhile, the price producers receive for the sugar they sell to grocers and food manufacturers - the wholesale refined sugar price -- averaged only 20.8 cents per pound in 2000, and 22.0 cents per pound so far this year, the lowest levels since 1979.

Ray VanDriessche, a Bay City, Michigan farmer and president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association (ASGA), commented, "This is really outrageous. Our price is at a 22-year low and farmers are hurting badly. Seventeen of our sugarbeet and sugarcane processing mills have closed just since 1996. But consumers have received no benefit. The grocery chains have not only failed to pass any of their savings on lower sugar prices along to consumers, but they've had the nerve to raise prices, and to a 20-year high at that."

VanDriessche added, "It is also incredibly cynical of the grocery chains and food manufacturers that they are backing legislation likely to be voted on by the U.S. House of Representatives this month, that would drive producer prices for sugar down another 30 percent. It's obvious why they are doing so: to increase their profits at the expense of American sugar farmers and consumers.

"Still," VanDriessche said, "American consumers are getting a great deal on sugar. U.S. retail sugar prices are about 20 percent below the developed-country average and, even with recent rise, have increased only 1-1/2 pennies per pound since 1990."
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