Newspaper, Food Companies Scolded for Inciting Sugar Shortage Scare

Published online: Sep 10, 2009 American Sugar Alliance
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In a letter sent to the Wall Street Journal, the American Sugar Alliance (ASA) said the newspaper "should be ashamed for ignoring irrefutable government data and creating needless panic" about a supposed sugar shortage. In August, the publication ran a front-page headline about sugar shortages even though U.S. Department of Agriculture data showed that the U.S. has sugar surpluses sitting on the market ready to be purchased. The text of ASA's letter follows. Dear Editor: As the nation's most visible financial news publication, the Wall Street Journal should be held to higher standards. Unfortunately, high standards were not met when the newspaper printed a front-page, above-the-fold headline on August 13 warning of a "sugar shortage." This headline, coupled with a misleading chart depicting sugar prices that have no bearing on American customers, set off a firestorm. Reporters from across the country mimicked the Journal's coverage, leading to a snowball effect that lasted more than two weeks. Concerned grocery shoppers wondered if they needed to stockpile sugar. There was one problem. America has a surplus of sugar, not a shortage-a point that was made to the Wall Street Journal reporters writing this article. In fact, there will be 1.252 million tons of excess sugar on the U.S. market by the end of this month, according to USDA data. To put that into perspective, it's enough surplus to give a five-pound bag of sugar to every person in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada and still have 11 million bags left over. USDA officials even publicly disagreed with the "shortage" characterization, saying the sugar market "will be adequately supplied." The truth is, sugar companies nationwide have extra inventory they're trying to sell. The industry even went so far as to take out an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal on August 19 begging food manufacturers to contact us if they needed sugar. We've received no calls. In their never-ending attempt to oversupply the market, food manufacturers should be ashamed for misleading the media and government officials about the state of the sugar market. And the Wall Street Journal should be ashamed for ignoring irrefutable government data and creating needless panic. Sincerely, James Johnson Chairman, American Sugar Alliance