At a time of rising global agricultural prices, what are the opportunities in sugar commodity trading for the trader or investor looking for exposure to commodities as an asset class? In 1974 this soft commodity witnessed a price spike of over 60 cents a pound and another over of 40 cents a pound in 1981, at the end of the 1970’s commodity bull market. It seems the sugar market and commodities in general are no different in 2009. Following the serious global economic slowdown in 2008, markets are recovering and sugar commodity prices are at their highest for 28 years.
There are numerous cases of serious sugar shortages as desperate consumers across Asia queue for small quantities of this key commodity. To think that while in 2007 India was a major exporter of sugar, with a surplus of five million tons, but from 2009 the country is a net importer. So what has caused this serious imbalance between world sugar demand and supply? After the shock of the global economic crisis, the US dollar is falling against other currencies and hopes of a strong rebound are causing real asset prices to be driven higher. Add in the weak monsoon season in India and very unhelpful weather for sugar plantations in Brazil, impacting adversely on sugar yields, and the result is raw sugar prices heading for a high of 25 cents a pound.
As part of our sugar commodity trading analysis, let’s see where sugar comes from, in what forms and at the new dynamic that promises to make a profound change to future world sugar commodity markets. Sugar is produced in over 100 countries worldwide, with between 75-80% made from sugarcane, mainly in tropical and sub-tropical areas in the southern hemisphere. A key factor in successful crop yields is rainfall, with an annual minimum of around 600 mm. Apart from adverse weather conditions, another factor that can cause sugar prices on world commodity exchanges to rise is crop infestation by pests.
Leading the pack of top producing nations is Brazil, also the largest global exporter, followed by India, China, the EU, USA and Australia. A major distorting factor in world sugar markets is subsidy regimes in the US and Europe, as they artificially drive prices higher than the world sugar price. In addition to its traditional uses in bread fermentation and in fruit and vegetable products, sugar is now increasingly used as a source of ethanol fuel.
Balance between supply was quite tight in 2007 and seems almost certain to remain or worsen as demand is projected to grow in developing Asian nations, particularly the BRIC nations like China and India. India is the largest consumer in the world and it is growing its use of sugar for ethanol as an alternative fuel. China is the world’s third largest consumer and producer, with its per capita sugar consumption increasing from a very low base of around 7kg per annum (US per capita consumption of 45kg per annum).
Brazil is the largest world producer and understanding this market will help your sugar commodity trading strategy. Brazil aims to avoid a sugar glut by using the potential excess sugarcane crop to produce ethanol for biodiesel, an alternative to petroleum-derived gasoline. Growing use of sugar to produce ethanol has arisen alongside increases in crude oil prices and a surge in demand for sugar in China. With high crude oil prices likely in the future coupled with growing demand, producers face huge challenges to avoid higher sugar prices.
With your chosen commodity trading system and advice from your professional financial adviser, you can trade from almost anywhere in the world with good internet access. #11 Raw sugar futures is the most heavily traded sugar futures contract in the world, available on the ICE US Futures platform as is the #16 Sugar futures contract. Alternatively, you can trade raw sugar futures on LIFFE CONNECT, the trading platform of LIFFE, part of the NYSE Euronext Group. Also look at soft commodity indexes using an ETF which may not involve taking a leveraged position. With the growth in bio ethanol demand and sugar consumption in the BRIC economies, prospects for sugar prices and sugar commodity trading look very exciting in the years ahead.
The author, Marianna Gomes, contributes articles on soft commodities to the Commodity Trading Today website, a helpful educational resource. Learn more about how you could benefit from sugar commodity trading here. Don’t reprint this exact article. Instead, reprint a free unique content version of this same article.