(Chicago, IL) – At a breakfast held last week with members of the U.S. confectionery industry and Chicago officials, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) faulted U.S. sugar policies for confectionery job loss in his home state and the difficulty faced by Illinois farmers trying to export agriculture products out of the United States. The Senator feels it is time to reform the U.S. sugar program in order to limit future job loss and help open foreign markets to U.S. agriculture exports. The National Confectioners Association, the trade group representing the U.S. candy, chocolate and gum industries, is pleased with Senator Durbin's position.
“The confectionery industry is very encouraged by Senator Durbin's statement last week,” said Bill Kelley, chairman of NCA and vice chair of Jelly Belly Candy Co. “For many years, domestic confectioners and other sugar users have been struggling to remain competitive in a market becoming increasingly saturated with imports made from world price sugar. Last year, 30 percent of non-chocolate confectionery sold in the United States was imported – an increase of 21 percent over the previous year. The growth rate of confectionery imports to the U.S. is overwhelming.”
The U.S. sugar program sets an artificially high price for domestically grown sugar and prevents the import of internationally grown sugar through restrictive tariffs and quotas. American food manufacturers and consumers pay two to three times the world price for sugar because of the government's unreasonable sugar policies. In recent years, the confectionery industry has been particularly hard-hit by foreign competition with access to world price sugar, forcing many U.S. plants to cut employees or even close their doors. Confectionery employment in the city of Chicago is down 30 percent since 1991. Nationally, more than 7,000 Americans have lost jobs in the confectionery industry in the past five years.
“The sugar program is hurting many people who have worked in the confectionery industry for years,” said Kelley, whose own company has been in business in Senator Durbin's home state since 1869. “U.S. manufacturers cannot compete with international companies when it comes to accessing world price sugar, and because of that we have seen significant fallout in Illinois and across the country. As a citizen of Illinois, and as a candy maker, I am very pleased to have Senator Durbin speaking out about this important issue.”