(June 19, 2013) – What if U.S. government protections of our domestic sugar industry were lifted tomorrow? And what if – because of a commensurate flood of cheap, subsidized imported sugar – our domestic sugar industry was forced to shut down and close up shop?
In that case, the United States – like some European countries who sold out their domestic sugar producers for the promise of cheap imported sugar a couple years ago – would be almost completely reliant on quite unreliable foreign producers.
Brazil currently controls over 50 percent of the world’s sugar market – compared to OPEC’s Saudi Arabia, which “only” controls and manipulates 19% of the world petroleum market. And just as unrest in OPEC countries can wildly inflate the cost of foreign oil, so could similar unrest in Brazil with the sugar market.
Indeed, Reuters reports that “As many as 200,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of Brazil’s biggest cities on Monday in a swelling wave of protest tapping into widespread anger at poor public services, police violence and government corruption.”
And the Associated Press is reporting today that “protest leaders” in Sao Paulo are calling for “another huge rally in Brazil’s largest city” for next Tuesday.
“The protests started with a group incensed about a 10-cent hike in subway and bus fares, the Free Fare Movement, which is mostly composed of students,” the AP reports. “The demonstrations exploded Monday night, however, after images broadcast nationwide showed police attacking the fare protesters during a rally Thursday in Sao Paulo.”
“We’re massacred by the government’s taxes, yet when we leave home in the morning to go to work, we don’t know if we’ll make it home alive because of the violence,” Maria Claudia Cardoso, one of the protestors is quoted as saying.
“We don’t have good schools for our kids. Our hospitals are in awful shape. Corruption is rife. These protests will make history and wake our politicians up to the fact that we’re not taking it anymore!”
The situation is so unstable and potentially explosive that the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human rights saw fit to urge “Brazilian authorities to exercise restraint in dealing with spreading social protests in the country and called on demonstrators not to resort to violence in pursuit of their demands.”
Can the United States really afford to sacrifice its sugar industry and risk placing our critical sugar needs in the hands of such an unstable world market?