A group of independent sugar refiners went to court yesterday in an effort to stop the Reagan administration's plan to set up a sugar import quota system that will bring higher prices to consumers.
The U.S. Cane Sugar Refiners' Association filed suit in the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York, charging that the quotas are illegal and seeking an order to halt their imposition.
The administration announced last week that the quotas, in addition to fees charged for imported sugar, were necessary to protect U.S. growers from foreign competition and to avoid large acquisitions of domestic sugar by the Commodity Credit Corp.
President Reagan said the quota plan would "defend the domestic sugar support program . . . and prevent massive imports which could displace domestic sugar and require the U.S. government to purchase sugar at a cost of up to $400 million."
But the refiners argued that the administration's move would simply transfer potential costs of the sugar support program from the government to consumers.
Nicholas Kominus, president of the refiners, said the quota system would raise the cost of sugar to consumers by about 3 cents per pound, or roughly $900 million annually.
The farm bill passed by Congress last year reinstituted a domestic sugar price support program to protect American growers and authorized the use of quotas and fees to prevent massive purchases of sugar by the government when world prices are lower than the U.S. supports.