On the Price of Sugars

A producer of fermentation products can choose feedstocks with different purities (Fig. 1).  As the purity goes up, the price is higher, and processing costs are lower, allowing the producer to define economically optimal conditions.  Both refined white sugar and raw sugar are traded.  White sugar is traded in London at the London Futures Exchange (LIFFE) The contract is known as the No 5 contract and is traded in US$/metric ton.  Raw sugar is traded in New York at the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) The contract is known as the No 11 contract and is traded in USc/lb.

The charts of the trade prices for refined white sugar and raw sugar can be obtained easily from the following link: http://www.sugartech.co.za/sugarprice/

No published trade prices for feedstocks with lower purities that could be of interest (e.g. molasses, starch, thick beet juice and syrup) have been found.  Without any doubt, if traded, producers of fermentation products should have this information.  In not traded, at least sugar producers know the production cost of purifying the intermediate, from which then a market value can be calculated.

Sugar purity

Figure 1: Feedstock price and processing costs as a function of the purity of different feedstocks (Ref. “Opportunities for the fermentation-based chemical industry. An analysis of the market potential and competitiveness of North-West Europe.”, Deloitte, September 2014).

When analyzing the charts (see Figs. 2 and 3), the following is observed:

Raw sugar (Price in cent/lb.):

The average value varies from 9 cent/lb. in 1991 to 18 cent/lb. in 2016 (determined by using an approximate linear regression).  Actual price (24-feb-16): 14,24 cent/lb.

When converted in $/tn., we obtain the following values: $ 198/tn. – $ 396/tn. – $ 313/tn. (simply multiply by 22).

Trade prices raw sugar

Figure 2: Trading price of raw sugar during the last 25 years (in USc/lb).

White sugar (Price in $/tn.):

The average value varies from $ 275/tn. in 1991 to $ 475/tn. in 2016 (determined by using an approximate linear regression).  Actual price (24-feb-16): $ 405,30/tn.

Trade prices white sugar

Figure 3: Trading price of white sugar during the last 25 years (in US$/Tn).

Combining both charts, by linear regression, we obtain approximately the following values.  The actual value has been included for comparison.


Values in $/tn. 1991 value

(linear regression)

2016 value

(linear regression)

Actual value


White sugar 275 475 405
Raw sugar 198 396 313
Difference 77 79 92

Table 1: Representative values for 1991 and 2016, with the actual value, and comparison between raw and refined white sugar trade values.



In the following report past values and forecasts of up till 2024 are included:


From the tables in the report, the following average values can be calculated (in $/tn.):

 Price in $/Tn. Historic Recent Forecast
NOMINAL VALUES Average 1988 – 2005 Average 2006 – 2016 Average 2017 – 2024
Raw sugar 216,16 385,47 364,41
White sugar 296,12 476,65 441,93
Difference raw / white 79,96 91,18 77,52

Table 2: Average trade prices in the past (1998 – 2005 and 2006 – 2016) and forecasted (2017-2024), including a comparison between raw and refined white sugar trade values.

The forecast value for the period 2017 – 2024 is slightly lower (20 $/tn for raw sugar and 35 $/tn for white sugar) than the average values for the period 2006 – 2016.  If we take into account that these are nominal values, we can speak of a true price reduction for the coming years.



White sugar, in the last 25 years, has a max. price around 800 $/tn. and a min. price around $ 160/tn. (at this moment raw sugar dropped to 88 $/tn., maintaining the previously mentioned difference).

Therefore, both white and raw sugar have highly speculative trade values.  However, the difference between both remains quite constant, having an approximate value of 80 – 90 $/tn.


Additional Information:

Traded values:


Sugar Prices:


Sugar and Sweeteners Yearbook Tables:


Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook:


Sugar: World Markets and Trade:


OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2015-2024:



2 thoughts on “On the price of sugars

  1. jblackest

    Thanks for this Bart!

    I wonder if you or the group working on the market studies has a view on the reality for the EU buyers. According to the earlier article (https://insightrefinery.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/market-protection-for-sugar-ethanol-and-biobased-chemicals-materials/) the impending market reform is likely to push EU prices for industrial (non-food) purposes, which were already higher than world sugar prices, further up. Will this give the EU an advantage in developing technical sugars from 2nd gen processes? Or will the increased production just soak up all the demand from fermentation industry regardless?


  2. Pingback: About the Insight Refinery | The Insight Refinery

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s