THAILAND: Sugar producers want better processing quality

Published: 03/08/2012, 2:49:58 PM

Sugar millers want to improve product quality in order to expand their reach once the Asean Economic Community creates open borders in 2015, according to the Bangkok Post.

Vibul Panitvong, executive chairman of the 47-member Thai Sugar Millers Corporation (TSMC), said his group is planning to increase its sugar quality to a standard of 99.2 degrees polarisation next year.

Sugar polarity is a measurement of the degree of refined purity based on molasses content and indicates how close the colour of the product is to pure white.

Polarisation is what distinguishes raw from refined sugar, with 100% pol signifying pure refined sugar.

"Our customers are complaining that Thai sugar is of low quality. Indonesia and Malaysia are importing from Brazil instead of us, the second-largest sugar exporter and a neighbour to boot. We must improve our quality to match Brazil and Australia." said Vibul, who is also the executive chairman of Ban Pong Sugar Co Ltd.

He said importers could then refine it further at lower cost.

Last year's sugar exports to Indonesia and Malaysia totalled 1.37 million tonnes and 344,000 tonnes, respectively.

Asia accounted for 86.3% of Thailand's 6.71 million tonnes of sugar shipments, with Asean buying 42%.

"This requires a large investment so to pay for the machinery we may need a low-interest loan from the Cane and Sugar Fund," he said.

He said up to 80% of Thai sugar mills will be ready next year and all by 2014.

Currently, polarisation for raw sugar is separated into 96 to 97.99 degrees pol for exports to Japan and 98.5 degrees pol or higher to elsewhere.

On a lighter note, Vibul said next year the colour of packaging for sugar exports will be changed to a rice straw colour from the present white.

"Ship captains have been telling us our refined sugar exports, when put on ships, are dusty. Then footprints are visible on the bags when they're unloaded, so they're rejected," he said.

The TSMC also supports floating of domestic sugar prices.

Vibul said Thailand has a very low domestic price of THB23.60 (US$0.77) a kilogramme for pure refined sugar, beating only Malaysia's THB23.26.