Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sugar Shortage

Since I've been obsessing about sugar all summer long, I can't possibly ignore the news in recent weeks about an impending sugar shortage.

My initial reaction was that of course it would be a fabulous thing. We'd all be better off if we drastically curtailed our sugar consumption. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it just won't play out that way.

If the government doesn't relax our import quotas on sugar and prices skyrocket, food manufacturers will switch back to high fructose corn syrup for any product where that is a viable substitute.

And if the government does relax our import quotas and we're flooded with cheaper sugar from the global markets, then our domestic sugar producers will be put out of business and all that acreage switched over to something more profitable--like corn.

It's not like sugar is the only sweetener available. High fructose corn syrup waits in the wings, ready to fill in at a moment's notice. Sure, if the shortage is extreme enough it will drive up the price of HFCS--and all forms of sweeteners--too, not just sugar. But sugar will take the worst hit.

I don't expect a shortage to change American habits. And I'm sure manufacturers will find a way to keep our collective sweet-tooth satisfied.

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