Sugar Is Getting More Expensive, and It’s El Nino’s Fault

  • Futures traded in New York reach highest since September 2014
  • Dry weather parched cane crops from Thailand to India

Having a sweet tooth is going to start hurting your wallet.

Sugar traded in New York surged to a 20-month high on Friday. Supply woes are pushing prices higher after this year’s El Nino weather pattern parched fields from Thailand to India, the world’s No. 2 grower. At the same time, demand is increasing in Asia. Even with a bumper crop expected from Brazil, most analysts are forecasting global deficits.

At industry events in New York this week, analysts and traders cited expectations for prices to continue to rally. The International Sugar Organization will probably have to increase its estimate for a supply shortfall in the 2015-16 season from a February projection, Jose Orive, executive director of the London-based group, said in an interview Wednesday. The group expects another deficit for the following season. 

“The bullish story is for next year, and the market is anticipating that,” James Cassidy, global head of sugar derivatives at Societe Generale SA in New York, said in a telephone interview.

Raw sugar for July delivery jumped 2.2 percent to settle at 17.07 cents a pound at 1:03 p.m. on ICE Futures U.S. in New York, after reaching 17.29 cents, the highest for a most-active contract since Sept. 9, 2014. The commodity has climbed 12 percent this year.

Hedge funds and other money managers are betting on further price gains. Their net-long positions reached 193,340 futures and options contracts as of May 10, the latest U.S. government data show. That’s the highest since November 2013. The sweetener could reach 20 cents by the end of the year, Bruno Lima, the head of sugar and ethanol for INTL FCStone, said in an interview in New York this week.

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