Sugar Import Program

Imports of sugar into the United States are governed by tariff-rate quotas (TRQs), which allow a certain quantity of sugar to enter the country under a low tariff. TRQs apply to imports of raw cane sugar, refined sugar, sugar syrups, specialty sugars and sugar-containing products. Import restrictions are intended to meet U.S. commitments under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (which resulted in the creation of the World Trade Organization).

USDA establishes the annual quota volumes for each federal fiscal year (beginning October 1) and the U.S. Trade Representative allocates the TRQs among countries. Sugar and related products paying a higher, over-quota tariff may enter the country in unlimited quantities.

More information about U.S. trade in sugar and sweeteners is available from USDA’s Economic Research Service.  

USDA also administers three re-export programs involving sugar.

  • The Refined Sugar Re-Export Program is designed to facilitate use of domestic refining capacity to export refined sugar into the world market. The program establishes a license against which a refiner can: export domestically produced refined sugar and later import low-duty raw cane sugar; import low-duty raw cane sugar for refining and distribution to licensed U.S. manufacturers of sugar-containing products and/or licensed producers of polyhydric alcohol for non-food purposes; or import raw sugar, refine it and export it into the world market. 
  • The Sugar-Containing Products Re-Export Program is designed to put U.S. manufacturers of sugar-containing products on a level playing field in the world market. U.S. participants in this program may buy world-priced sugar from any licensed refiner for use in products to be exported to the world market.
  • The Sugar for the Production of Polyhydric Alcohol Program is established to provide world-priced sugar to licensed U.S. manufacturers of polyhydric alcohols. Participating U.S. manufacturers purchase world-priced sugar from licensed refiners for use in the production of polyhydric alcohols, except polyhydric alcohols used as a substitute for sugar in human food consumption.