14 September 2008

The Fanjuls Sugar Connection

Few things ought to curdle the blood of American patriots more than using our secular military to fight Christian (or religious) wars and our tax dollars to bail out cronies.

From the New York Times:

But in the end, the $1.7 billion buyout, scheduled to be completed in early 2009, may also prove to be a financial boon to the state’s remaining sugar superpower, Florida Crystals.

One of the country’s wealthiest families, the Fanjuls of Palm Beach, controls Florida Crystals and today touches virtually every aspect of the sugar trade in the United States.

If you buy Domino Sugar, you’re buying from the Fanjuls. Ditto C&H Sugar. (That name stands for California & Hawaii, but the Florida Fanjuls acquired it in 2005.) National retailers prefer dealing with coast-to-coast vendors, so if you buy a bag of sugar at Wal-Mart, Kroger or Safeway, you’re also patronizing the Fanjuls.

Take a pill, eat a granola bar — you’re probably consuming special, high-end sugars that Florida Crystals produces for the pharmaceutical and packaged-food industries.

Sugar imported from Mexico and the Dominican Republic also stands a good chance of coming from Fanjul companies.

Is there anything else we can do for members of the tortured Cuban-American community?

“This is going to be a really good deal for the Fanjuls,” says Dexter Lehtinen, a former federal prosecutor whose 1988 lawsuit against the state led to a settlement instituting tough clean water standards. “The state embarked on a nonachievable goal, and now in desperation to wrap up some package, they’re going to have to give access to Florida Crystals on favorable terms.”

Others, like makers of candy and cereal, say the Fanjuls already control too much of the sugar trade. They want to buy sugar cheap and say the Fanjuls have long charmed Congress into legislating price supports that keep it expensive.

“These people have been absolutely extorting consumers for decades, and the only reason they’re existing in the first place is, they were able to get sweet deals from governments that were propping them up,” says Sallie James, a trade policy analyst with the libertarian Cato Institute, referring to Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar.

Free market? What a fairy tale.