KANSAS CITY —Nicaragua has been excluded from a list of countries qualified for low-duty sugar exports to the United States in 2022-23 apparently for political reasons.

The Office of the US Trade Representative on July 21 published in the Federal Register the list of countries allocated tariff-rate quotas (TRQ) for imported raw cane sugar in 2022-23 (beginning Oct. 1, 2022). Nicaragua received a TRQ allocation of 22,114 tonnes in 2021-22 but was not listed in the allocations for next year. The US Department of Agriculture earlier announced the 2022-23 raw sugar TRQ at 1,117,195 tonnes, raw value, the minimum required under World Trade Organization agreements. By statute, the TRQ quantity is allocated by the USTR after the total quantity is set by the USDA.

Nicaragua was dropped from the preferential list of low-duty sugar as the United States was “stepping up pressure on the government of President Daniel Ortega, an authoritarian leader with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin,” according to The Wall Street Journal. The United States also has accused the Ortega government of corruption and views its relationship with Russia as a regional security threat.

ABC News, citing Nicaragua’s National Sugar Producers’ Commission, said the action “would affect four sugar mills, some 800 producers and their families, as well as investors from Guatemala, Colombia, Spain, the United States and Nicaragua.” The sugar industry accounts for about 4% of Nicaragua’s gross national product, according to ABC News, with US imports of sugar from Nicaragua last year valued at $83.5 million.

The USDA in its May Sugar: World Markets and Trade report did not include Nicaragua among its forecast of the world’s 25 largest sugar producers in 2022-23, but forecast exports at 495,000 tonnes, ranked 15th globally.

The International Sugar Organization in May estimated Nicaragua’s 2021-22 sugar production at 764,000 tonnes and exports at 500,000 tonnes.