“…we are in a scenario of reduced production costs and better economic margins…”
Haroldo José Torres da Silva is a managing partner of Pecege Consultoria e Projetos, member of the Agricultural and Financial Committees of Grupo Cocal and Grupo Colombo.
Silva is an economist, with a M.Sc and Ph.D from the University of São Paulo.
AgriBrasilis – Is there a lack of sugar on the international market? Why?
Haroldo Torres – A deficit is expected in the global sugar market, due to the reduction in supply from important players. Thailand, for example, is expected to have the worst sugarcane harvest in the last decade. The scenario is also marked by the increase in global consumption, driven by population growth, to the detriment of the reduction in sugar supply in some countries, such as India and Thailand.
AgriBrasilis – How does India’s decision to not export sugar benefit Brazil?
Haroldo Torres – The lack of rainfall is expected to reduce sugarcane production in India. However, in the period leading up to the Indian elections (May of 2024), some concerns are most relevant: food security and inflation. In this way, India seeks to ensure a sufficient supply of sugar in its domestic market and to keep prices under control by limiting sugar exports.
If there are restrictions or bans on the export of Indian sugar for the next season (2023/24), we should see an increase in the price of this commodity on the international market, benefiting Brazil, especially the Center-South region.
AgriBrasilis – What is your analysis regarding current production costs in the Brazilian sugar-ethanol chain? What about the margins for farmers?
Haroldo Torres – Agribusiness is all about productivity. Higher productivity means more production with less farming area and fewer resources, ultimately defining the ability to dilute costs and to create an operational leverage.
With the increase in yields during the 2023/24 harvest, we will see an increase in capacity usage, which will cause some additional cost reductions. Therefore, we are in a scenario of reduced production costs and better economic margins.
AgriBrasilis – Why are Brazilian sugarcane mills prioritizing sugar production during the 2023/24 harvest? What issues have hampered ethanol production?
Haroldo Torres – Sugar-ethanol industries are maximizing sugar production in the 2023/24 harvest, fundamentally for profitability reasons. The remuneration from sugar compared to ethanol is considerably higher, leading mills to prioritize the production of this commodity.
Ethanol suffered some competitive blows, first with tax changes that occurred in the fuel market in 2022 and, recently, with the distancing of prices charged by Petrobrás in comparison with international prices (PPI).
AgriBrasilis – What led to the sugarcane crushing records?
Haroldo Torres – The 2023/24 harvest saw a significant increase in sugarcane production and, consequently, in sugarcane crushing. This comes from greater yields that happened during the harvest, mainly due to three factors:
- better climatic conditions, especially higher levels of precipitation, boosting sugarcane development;
- better and higher levels of investment in the farms, with emphasis on cultural practices;
- higher planting area in 2022, which led to a larger first-year sugarcane harvest
AgriBrasilis – How should sugar prices behave in Brazil and around the world?
Haroldo Torres – Sugar prices are expected to remain attractive. On the one hand, we have demand for sugar farming increasing steadily, especially in developing countries, while on the supply side, prices over the last decade have not attracted new investment into the industry.
We are also noticing higher additional production costs in other countries. This leads us to a structural improvement in prices and incentives for additional production. In this scenario, Brazil will be even more relevant in the global sugar trade in the coming years.