Sugar Consumption in Australia - A Statistical Update
October 04, 2012 at 4:00 PM
This paper clarifies some issues surrounding sugar consumption statistics in Australia. In the past few years, claims that sugar consumption is rising rapidly have been argued vigorously from opposing viewpoints. One major problem for anyone looking closely at the issue – from policy makers, industry, health professionals and others – is that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) ceased publishing their “Apparent Consumption of Foodstuffs” data in 1998/99. This publication was the best government-collated data on foodstuffs consumption. Now, regulatory issues regarding food consumption are often debated and decided without independent ABS data to rely on.
In the absence of ABS collating such data, the Australian Sugar Refiners and CANEGROWERS have commissioned an independent analysis by Green Pool Commodity Specialists (Green Pool) to publish an updated set of statistics on sugar consumption in Australia using ABS methodology, and to make a detailed assessment of the underlying data and trends. The main findings of this study are as follows:
- The long-term trend for sugar consumption per capita in Australia is down. This report uses an updated ABS data series (original 1938-1998, updated 1999-2011), using the ABS methodology (the “ABS extended series”).
- Sugar consumption per capita has fallen from 57 kg/capita in 1951 to around 42 kg/capita in 2011. There is some variability around the trend line, for which causal factors are suggested.
- The ABS extended data series is a more robust and accurate series than any current alternative. In particular, data derived from Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) is shown to be seriously deficient, and ABARES’ own analysts admit it is a poor measure of consumption.
- Regression analysis shows that a downtrend line explains 52.66% of the variability in the ABS (extended) dataset from 1970 to 2011– an adequate result for a time series over 41 years. Conversely, an uptrend line explains less than 1% of the variability in the ABARES data series, due to the enormous volatility in the dataset.
- The ABS extended series captures several important factors that ABARES’ data does not. The ABS series measures sales by domestic refiners to all direct users and manufacturers in Australia. It also incorporates sugar imports into Australia, which ABARES does not. Additionally, the ABS extended series measures the sugar content of imports and exports of manufactured goods including blended food ingredients. Blends represent an important export product, and a factor substantially distorting alternative measures of Australian sugar consumption. ABARES did not intend its total production less exports data to be used to measure consumption – and in fact published data similar to the ABS series in a 1991 paper.
- Exports from Australia of food preparations rose sharply in the 1990s, peaking in 1996-2002, but have since fallen. A sizeable portion of these exports were to Japan to “bust” high Japanese tariffs on imported sugar (and consequently avoid high Japanese sugar prices). The strong Australian currency has now reduced blend exports from Australia.
- Whereas Australia has been a net exporter of sugar in sugar-containing products (peaking at close to 150,000 mt of sugar in products in 2002), it is now a net importer of sugar in sugar-containing products (of 22,000 mt of sugar in products in 2011). Australian food manufacturers have lost competitiveness against overseas producers, and some manufactures have moved off-shore.
- Claims that there is widespread proliferation of fructose in foods (in place of sucrose) could not be verified. While no compositional data for fructose in food imports was readily available from ABS, no production of fructose (powdered or as high fructose corn syrup) in Australia could be verified. This is very different to the USA, where fructose is a mainstream food ingredient. ABS import data shows only 3,000 tonnes per annum (or 0.13 kg/capita) of fructose imported into Australia in 2011 for all purposes, and at least some of this is re-exported in food preparation blends to Japan.
The longer-term down trend and the shorter-term 10.34% reduction in adjusted per capita sugar consumption in Australia, from a peak of 46.26 kg in 2004 to 41.97 kg in 2011, may be due to a number of factors. The most important are likely to be increasing global sugar prices and dietary changes, which may have contributed to increased use of intense sweeteners (Equal, Sucralose etc.) and reduced usage of sugar in both the household and in manufactured goods. Further examination of these issues in more detailed dietary studies may help to clarify such trends.
The fact that no Australian government agency currently collates and publishes apparent consumption data for products including sugar is regrettable. It leaves a void for industry, which will always be open to accusations of attempting to portray data trends to its advantage. Green Pool’s report is an independent expert report, and it is intended that this report be published in an appropriate economics or health economics journal and be subject to normal publication scrutiny.
 CANEGROWERS is the peak body for Australian sugarcane growers
 ABARES is a research organisation within the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
 Regression Analysis is used to fit a line showing trend to a dataset, and quote a standard statistic – the R-squared or R2 – to show how well that trend line “fits” the data. R-squared values range from 0 to 1 (or 0 to 100%).
November 2, 2017
The global sugar market is poised for a surplus of 9.80 million tonnes 2017/18, Australia-based analyst Green Pool said on Tuesday, amid stronger production and sluggish consumption growth.Read More
November 1, 2017
World sugar dynamics are the “worst” - for bulls – in at least 12 years, Green Pool said, hiking its estimate of the global output surplus, and hinting at the potential for further growth in stocks “into 2018-19 and perhaps beyond”.Read More
August 24, 2017
The global sugar surplus is expanding as Brazil, Thailand and the European Union drive world production to record, according to Green Pool Commodity Specialists. Supplies will outpace demand by 7.1 million metric tons in the 2017-18 season that starts in October in most countries, a 29 percent increase from a May forecast.Read More
July 3, 2017
Green Pool highlighted the threat to sugar consumption from the likes of health concerns and rival sweeteners as it raised by 837,000 tonnes its forecast for the looming world sugar production surplus. The Australia-based sugar consultancy revised up to 5.55m tonnes its forecast for the global output surplus in 2017-18, taking it to the largest since 2013-14.Read More
May 24, 2017
It’s not this year’s price crash that haunts the $150 billion sugar industry. It’s the fear of worse to come. Raw sugar’s 16 percent drop ranks it bottom of the 22 raw materials on the Bloomberg Commodity Index. Shocks to demand in top consumer India and prospects of more European supply are helping shift the market to a surplus, hurting prices. Yet beyond such market dampeners, hang darker clouds. After decades of stable demand growth, almost doubling per person since 1960, the world is heading for a tipping point as shoppers turn against the cola and candy blamed for an obesity epidemic in the rich world. At the same time, sugar has to compete with cheap syrups increasingly used in processed food. "Growth is not what it’s been," Tom McNeill, managing director of Green Pool, said in an interview. "There is undoubtedly a move by global bottlers and by a lot of global food manufacturers to reduce the sugar content in their products."Read More
May 24, 2017
The "war on sugar" being waged by governments and consumers to combat public health emergencies like diabetes is slowing growth in global demand, which along with other factors could signal a fundamental shift in consumption ahead. Consumption may grow at its slowest pace in seven years in 2017/18, according to analyst group Platts Kingsman. It forecasts a rise of 1.04 percent, nearly half the average growth of about 2 percent per year over the last decade. "Consumption is generally stagnating in developed countries," Tom McNeill, director at commodity analyst group Green Pool, told Reuters.Read More
May 9, 2017
Global sugar exports will exceed demand this season and the next as India brings in less than expected and the European Union boosts output, according to Tropical Research Services, which advises hedge funds. Exports will beat import demand every quarter through September 2018, TRS estimates. The trade-flow surplus will total 398,000 metric tons in the third quarter, reversing a previous forecast for a shortage of more than double that amount, said Sean Diffley, the firm’s head of sugar and ethanol research.Read More
May 5, 2017
HOME COMMODITIES COMPANIES MARKETS OPINION DATA CALENDAR SUBSCRIBE Thurs 11th May 2017 PRINTABLE VERSION EMAIL TO A FRIEND RSS FEEDS 13:57 UK, 5th May 2017, by William Clarke Green Pool trims sugar deficit forecast, a touch... Sugar analyst Green Pool only slightly trimmed its forecast for a hefty sugar surplus next season, as consumption grows only sluggishly despite easing sugar prices. "Consumption is a major issue for sugar, with global consumption growing only slowly," Green Pool said. "Some growth is being seen in developing countries, while consumption is actually falling in some developed countries."Read More