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Portuguese sugar rush calms down

A mad sugar rush in Portuguese supermarkets began to calm on Monday after a weekend which saw shelves up and down the country emptied of the sweet commodity.

The rush was inadvertently caused by an official from the Portuguese Retail Distribution Association (Associação Portuguesa de Empresas de Distribuição) who had admitted that there was a “scarcity of the product”.

However, he later denied over the weekend that stocks of sugar had run out nationwide.

The initial statement, which had people running for the supermarkets, was also played down by the Minister for Agriculture, António Serrano, who said on Sunday that the sector had already given assurances that sugar stocks would return to normal by the beginning of 2011.

However, speculation in the future price of sugar continued on Monday and Tuesday as world supplies tightened and the price for futures boomed.

White sugar futures on the London NYSE Liffe Exchange soared by 5% to hit a month high of $759 per metric tonne while raw sugar futures in New York reached a four week peak at 30.22 cents per pound.

Weather problems in many key exporting countries like Cuba and Brazil have damaged harvests and so cut supplies.

On Monday, India and South Africa, both important producers, added to the worry by downgrading their predicted outputs by several million tonnes. Demand for sugar has also soared in China’s booming economy.

India’s government indicated that it may delay a decision on taxing sugar imports which means it is considering slashing exports.

António Serrano said that negotiations were underway with the European Union to ease sugar imports from unaffected countries.

In Portugal, many supermarkets have been limiting sales of sugar to two kilos per person at a cost of 0.70 to 0.90 Euros per kilo.