U.S. Sweetener/Sugar Issues and Concerns

RCED-85-19: Published: Nov 15, 1984. Publicly Released: Nov 15, 1984.

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GAO provided information on issues affecting the sugar industry.

GAO found that: (1) domestic consumption of sugar declined from 103 pounds per capita in 1972 to 71 pounds per capita in 1983; (2) consumption of sugar as a percentage of domestic sweetener consumption fell from 79 percent to 53 percent during the same period; and (3) while domestic sugarcane production has remained relatively stable since 1975, domestic sugarbeet production and production capacity have declined. GAO also found that: (1) the U.S. role as a sugar importer has important economic effects on sugar-producing countries; (2) a recent initiative to provide assistance to the Caribbean region will benefit Caribbean sugar producers by giving duty-free status to sugar imported from that region; and (3) the International Sugar Agreement, which was intended to promote stability in world sugar prices, has not been effective, primarily because the countries of the European Economic Community are not parties to the agreement. In addition, GAO found that: (1) representatives of sugar-producing and sugar-consuming industries have different views on the optimum structure for a sugar price-support program; (2) without a price-support program, the United States would become more dependent on imported sugar; (3) retaining a price-support program would involve costs to domestic consumers as a subsidy to sugar producers; (4) the sugar price-support program indirectly benefits other parts of the sweetener industry by encouraging the use of sugar substitutes; and (5) international considerations must be taken into account in determining the eventual direction of U.S sugar policy.

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