The American Sugar Alliance has dismissed concerns among some of the leading food manufacturers in the US that the industry is facing an shortage of sugar.

Food makers including Kraft Foods, Hershey and Mars , have asked the US department of agriculture to increase the allowance of tariff-free imports into the country.

However, the American Sugar Alliance has insisted food manufacturers are claiming that there will be an under-supply in a bid to cut their sugar bills. 

“This is no more than political shenanigans. Manufacturers want to increase imports to force down their ingredients costs,” Phillip Hayes, director of communications at the American Sugar Alliance, told just-food.

In a letter, picked up by the Wall Street Journal, a consortium of companies – including Kraft, Hershey, Mars and General Mills  – called on Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack to allow more imports of tariff-free sugar.

The companies warned that without such action, rising sugar prices would force them to hike consumer prices and lay off workers, the WSJ reported.

However, US sugar prices have actually declined year-on-year, the American Sugar Alliance claimed. In July last year, prices were $0.39 per pound, compared to $0.35 per pound this July.

“Prices have been falling for most of the past year. We have seen a slight rebound in August. The raw sugar price – the price we monitor most closely – fell drastically over the past year, but has rebounded to a point where growers will brake even,” Hayes said. “We have lots of sugar.”

According to Hayes, US confectioners send out similar letters urging the USDA to increase imports “every few months”.

“The difference this time is that the Wall Street Journal ran it on the front page,” Hayes suggested.

Earlier this week, the USDA said that the US sugar market was operating at an 11% surplus-to-use ratio and this is expected to increase next year.

A spokesperson for the USDA told just-food that the department was “continuing to monitor” the situation.

Kraft, General Mills, Hershey and Mars were not immediately available for comment.