Letter: Sugar economics aren’t so sweet

Remember when a candy bar only cost 25 cents? I do.

It was in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s. I was working on my family sugar cane farm for about $3 an hour. My family and our neighbors were getting about 17 cents to 19 cents a pound for their “commercially recoverable sugar.”

Now, over 30 years later, you’re lucky to get a normal size candy bar for less than $1. I make a lot more than $3 an hour — most days — but guess what? With the exception of a couple of unusual market years, my family and neighbors only get about 20 cents to 22 cents a pound for their sugar.

Landlords are taking a higher percentage for rent. Sugar mills have gone from more than 40 in South Louisiana to only 11, making logistics much more difficult and expensive.

Sugar farmers are much more efficient by necessity, and there are far fewer of them. There is significantly less acreage in the United States in sugar production, but farmers are yielding much more sugar per acre at an even-higher input cost.

The other sugar-producing nations are primarily in South America and all of their respective governments subsidize their sugar production, allowing them to reduce or manipulate the world price significantly from its free-market level.

In spite of these facts, the confection industry continues to lobby against the sugar stabilization measures on domestic sugar. Sugar is a four-year crop, so sugar farmers are even more restricted in their ability to swap or rotate crops in response to the changing market. Two years or more at prices below the input cost will virtually destroy the domestic sugar industry and have resounding economic effects on the sugar regions of the United States.

So, next time you pay $1 for a candy bar, remember that the primary ingredient has only risen about 10 percent in the past 30 years, while the price of the bar itself has risen 300 percent. And they don’t lower the price of the candy when the price of sugar declines.

Oscar Evans

retired fighter pilot

White Castle