The Coalition for Sugar Reform says it’s alarmed but not surprised to learn of the increased food price inflation estimates released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Sugar prices are at an all-time high, and factor in the overall 2011 food inflation rate.

Increased food price inflation estimates recently issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Washington, D.C., state that with the overall 2011 food inflation rate pegged at an estimated 3.5-4.5%, sugar prices are following suit. They’re at an all-time high, and are a contributing factor in the food inflation rate. The record-high sugar prices can also be directly attributed to the current government-controlled U.S. sugar program, deemed archaic and protectionist by the Coalition for Sugar Reform, Washington, D.C.

“A law passed by Congress in 2008 prevents the USDA from allowing price-reducing sugar imports for six months of every year, and severely limits them the remaining six months,” says Larry Graham, chairman of the Coalition for Sugar Reform and president of the National Confectioners Association, Washington, D.C. “The restrictions are unique to the sugar industry, and also place legal limits on how much sugar companies here in the U.S. can sell to customers, further increasing prices. No other U.S. agriculture industry is subject to such central-planning measures.”

Compared to 2010, he says, the retail price of sugar was up 5% in the first quarter, 7% in the second quarter and approximately 13% in the third quarter. For the year as a whole, economists expect retail sugar prices to average 9% above 2010 levels. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, D.C., current refined sugar prices are now 70.2 cents per pound, up 25% from three years earlier.

“We are pleased to see legislative action from bipartisan members of the U.S. House and Senate who have introduced six pieces of legislation to repeal or reform sugar policy,” Graham adds. “Yet ongoing Congressional support on both sides of the aisle is needed to effectively change the current U.S. sugar policy and rein in increasing food prices for families and consumers nationwide.”