Vietnam exports sugar despite low stock

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Vietnam exported the largest amount of sugar to China this year even though local supply of the sweetener is running low, officials said.

Around 100,000 tons of sugar has been sold to China recently, the highest level ever, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Bui Ba Bong told a meeting in Ho Chi Minh City last Friday. He did not specify when the exports started.

Pham Thi Sum, chairwoman of leading producer Bien Hoa Sugar Company, said local traders have exported some 30,000 tons of sugar to the neighboring country every month since May. "This included locally produced sugar and imported products from Thailand," she added.

Sum said as local demand for sugar is high, the exports have caused prices to surge.

"China will continue to buy more sugar until the Mid-Autumn Festival. As a result, sugar prices in Vietnam will stay really high," she said.

Sugar prices in the country are hovering around US$1 per kilogram.

Official statistics showed that Vietnamese sugar producers now have a stockpile of 347,700 tons. Combined with 142,000 tons to be imported, this amount of sugar will be able to meet the average local demand through October. After that the market is expected to face a shortfall in supply.

The local sugar sector has been caught up in a series of inconsistencies this year.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade in February granted annual quotas for domestic companies to import 250,000 tons of sugar to ensure sufficient supply for the market. In April, based on the request of local producers facing huge stock, the ministry decided to halt importing until August.

But now sugar producers fear they may not have enough to sell.

Doan Xuan Hoa, a senior official at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said it's difficult to have a reliable estimate of local supply and demand due to "various factors including the amount of smuggled sugar, the amount of sugar to be exported to China and the increase in local consumption."

"We will follow the market supply and demand closely and request the government to allow imports if necessary," he said.

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