27 April 2012
Costa Rica’s sugar industry is made up of approximately 7,000 producers and 13 sugar mills, distributed in 6 regions of the
country. However, more than 60 percent of cane production is concentrated in the pacific region, mainly in the province of
Guanacaste. The majority of the sugar mills are owned by Costa Rican nationals, although at least one company is owned by
Guatemalan investors. LAICA is the institution that regulates the relationship between producers and millers. LAICA is
also involved in the marketing and sales of sugar and sugar products for domestic consumption and for export.
Based on preliminary data from LAICA, cane and sugar production are expected to reach 3,750,000 MT and 390,000 MT respectively during crop year 2011/2012. Also, as a result of better weather conditions throughout 2011 (mainly less rainfall and flooding) sugar yields were higher resulting in higher sugar production. The largest mill in the Southern region of Perez Zeledon, which had been affected in the past by a disease known as “orange rust” caused by the fungi Puccinia kuehnii, has almost finished substituting plantations with varieties that are more resistant to the fungi.
Area planted of sugar cane is estimated to be 57,000 ha. with 54,000 ha. being harvested. Area planted is expected to increase slightly in 2012/2013 as a result of reduced uncertainty among producers regarding CAFTA-DR. New areas will be planted in Guanacaste as the larger mills are trying to increase production to utilize their installed capacity. Mills in the Guanacaste region continue to lure producers of other crops (mainly rice) to shift to sugar cane production. As a result of current market conditions and uncertainty in the rice sector, more rice producers are expected to start planting sugar. However, sugar mills in the Central part of the country are struggling in order to keep sugar area planted from declining, as competition from urbanization and high land prices are slowly taking area away from sugar.
Data provided by the Costa Rican Sugar League (LAICA) indicates that the average sugar cane yield declined sharply from 75.6 MT/ha. in 2009/2010 to about 61.1 MT/ha. in 2010/2011. The average sugar yield was 99.56 kg/ton in 2009/2010 and reached 106.9 kg/ton in 2010/2011. Yields dropped as a result of a very strong rainy season during calendar year 2010 that resulted in extensive flooding in some areas of Guanacaste. The flooding did not recede quickly, resulting in cane losses as well as lower sugar production. Both cane and sugar yields are expected to improve during the 2011/2012 crop.
Costa Rica’s sugar consumption was 236,770 MT in 2010/2011, and it is forecast to increase to 250,000 MT in 2011/2012. Per capita sugar consumption is estimated at 51.31 kg. for 2010/2011. Costa Rica’s per capita sugar consumption is one of the highest in the region, although it has declined from a record 59.2 kg in 1997-1998. Total sugar consumption is divided almost equally between direct consumption and industrial use. Costa Rican mills produce different types of sugar for the domestic market including white sugar, refined, white special and raw sugar.
Costa Rican sugar exports reached 107,524 MT valued at $66.9 million during the 2010/2011 crop year. Exports are expected to reach 140,000 MT in 2011/2012. The main destinations for Costa Rica’s sugar during that period were Canada and the United States. Exports to the United States include the U.S. WTO, and the CAFTA-DR sugar quotas, and sugar for re-export. Costa Rica already exported its WTO sugar quota to the U.S. for the 2012 fiscal year.April 2012
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