WRAPUP 1-U.S. readies duties on Mexican sugar, prices tipped to rise

martes 26 de agosto de 2014 15:48 GYT

By Adriana Barrera and Krista Hughes

MEXICO CITY/WASHINGTON Aug 26 (Reuters) - The United States is set to slap import duties on Mexican sugar in a move that could push up candy and soft drink prices for U.S. consumers and incite retaliation from Mexico, which is keen to agree a deal to avoid the new levies.

The duties announced by the U.S. Department of Commerce on Tuesday will bolster prices for U.S. sugar but mean companies like sweet makers Hershey Co and Mondelez International Inc will have to pay up to 5 cents per pound extra for imported sweetener, based on current refined sugar prices of around 30 cents per pound.

The preliminary decision in favor of U.S. sugar producers, who complain of unfair competition from subsidized Mexican sugar, could still be overturned but marks an early win for the powerful U.S. sugar lobby in the industry's first trade case in decades.

Sugar shipped from state-owned Mexican mills faces duties of 17.01 percent, while the Commerce Department set a rate of 2.99 percent for private sector producer Tala, owned by Grupo Azucarero Mexico, and 14.87 percent for all other producers, the department said in a statement.

Mexico nationalized many struggling sugar mills in 2001 and government-owned mills provide a fifth of the country's sugar.

U.S. sugar producers, who themselves benefit from an intricate network of government supports and managed trade, say a sharp rise in Mexican imports drove a collapse in local prices, hurting local growers, mills and refiners and costing them nearly $1 billion in net income.

Juan Cortina, president of the Mexican sugar chamber, said the Mexican sugar industry is prepared to agree to a deal that limits sugar exports to the U.S., but said any agreement would have to fix an export minimum of at least 1 million tonnes per cycle.

He said the chamber believed a deal could be reached before the U.S. resolves the anti-dumping section of the case in October -- which could lead to more duties.   Continuación...