November 18, 2019 / 3:36 PM / 17 days ago

UPDATE 1-Suedzucker closing Antwerp export office, focuses on EU

(Adds detail from paragraph)

PARIS/HAMBURG, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Suedzucker, Europe’s largest sugar refiner, said on Monday it will close an export sales office in Antwerp, Belgium as part of its strategy to concentrate on business in the European Union market instead of sales outside the EU.

The company said earlier this year it was focusing on EU domestic sales rather than selling for export at current depressed world prices.

“I can confirm we plan to close the Antwerp export sales office,” a Suedzucker spokesman said. “This is part of our refocusing on the EU market which we have previously communicated.”

“The Antwerp office has previously handled our worldwide sales.”

The office will close this month with more than 10 personnel affected, he said.

Europe’s sugar producers are still suffering from the double blow of low sugar prices and EU market liberalisation that has exposed them to depressed world markets.

The European Union deregulated its sugar market in 2017, ending its system of guaranteed minimum prices and protected production quotas. That gave European producers more freedom to expand and export but left them exposed to low world prices.

World sugar prices hit their lowest in a decade late last year amid heavy oversupply. Prices have recovered in 2019, with EU prices firming at a steadier rate than global markets.

Suedzucker on Oct. 25 raised its forecast for operating profits in its current financial year on increased demand for the biofuel ethanol but said it expected a continued loss from its core sugar sector. (Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide and Michael Hogan, editing by Susan Fenton)

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