Justice Department loses challenge to sugar industry merger | 2022-09-23

A federal judge on Friday rejected the Justice Department’s antitrust challenge to United States Sugar Corp.’s acquisition of a rival processor, Imperial Sugar Co.

The ruling issued Friday by Maryellen Noreika of the US District Court for Delaware said the merger would not violate antitrust provisions of the Clayton Act. The opinion was sealed, but parties to the lawsuit were given until next Thursday to submit a redacted version.

The department, which could appeal the ruling, had argued that the acquisition of Imperial from agribusiness giant Louis Dreyfus Co. would allow US Sugar and American Sugar Refining to control the overwhelming majority of sugar sales across the Southeast.

“We are disappointed in the court’s decision not to block this merger, which would combine the world’s largest sugar cane refiner with one of its primary competitors in the Southeastern United States and increase reliance on foreign imports,” Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter said in a statement.

“Further consolidation in the market for this important kitchen staple will have real-world consequences for millions of Americans. We are reviewing the opinion and will determine next steps shortly.”

The department’s challenge to the merger, filed in November 2021, was in line with the Biden administration’s push to restrict corporate mergers and industry consolidation.

US Sugar, which operates a large sugar refinery in Florida, markets its sugar through Minnesota-based United Sugars Corp., a cooperative owned by US Sugar, American Crystal Sugar Co., Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative, and Wyoming Sugar Co. Louis Dreyfus had said the merger would “create production, logistics and supply chain synergies and efficiencies that will benefit US consumers.”

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