Australia Cuts Sugar Output as Canopy Syndrome Curbs Yields

Sugar production in Australia, the world’s third-biggest exporter, may be lower than estimated as yellow canopy syndrome in some growing regions curbs yields, said a government forecaster.

Output will probably be 4.3 million metric tons in the year started July 1, compared with 4.5 million tons predicted in June and unchanged from last year, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences said in a report today. Exports may reach 3 million tons from 3.2 million tons forecast in June, it said.

Prices plunged 51 percent since reaching a three-decade high in 2011 as growers from Brazil to Australia and Mexico increased harvests. The Australian Sugar Milling Council puts the cane crop at 30.6 million tons from 33 million tons estimated earlier. More than 60 percent of the available cane crop was crushed by the end of last week, it said.

The output decline reflects “lower average sugar yields, due in part to canopy syndrome disease in the Bundaberg and Isis regions” as well as flood damage to new plantings in early 2013, said Canberra-based Abares.

The disease causes leaves to turn yellow and can exaggerate crop stress, leading to stalled growth and poor production, according to Andrew Ward, professional extension and communications unit manager at BSES Ltd., which is now part of Sugar Research Australia.

The condition was found in fields in the Burdekin, Herbert, Tully and Mulgrave regions in north Queensland, Ward said in June. The syndrome was first found in a couple of fields in the Mulgrave region around Cairns last year, according to Ward.

Raw sugar for delivery in March fell 0.2 percent to 17.50 cents a pound on ICE Futures U.S. in New York today. Prices reached 36.08 cents in February 2011.

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