Granulated sugar being poured into Tigard, Oregon, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. (AP Photo / Jenny Kane)

WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States Department of Justice filed a lawsuit Tuesday to try to stop a major domestic sugar manufacturer from acquiring its rival, arguing that allowing the deal would hurt competition and consumers.

The government filed the complaint in federal court in Delaware, about eight months after the US Sugar conglomerate announced that it had agreed to acquire the Imperial Sugar Company, one of the largest sugar refineries in the country.

The lawsuit is the latest example of aggressive enforcement of federal antitrust law that, according to Justice Department officials, seeks to ensure a fair and competitive market. It came months after President Joe Biden signed an executive order asking the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to vigorously enforce antitrust statutes and promote competition in the marketplace.

“Strong antitrust enforcement is an essential pillar of the Justice Department’s commitment to ensuring economic opportunity and fairness for all,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “We will not hesitate to challenge anticompetitive mergers that would harm both US consumers and businesses,” he added.

US Sugar has warned that it plans to fight the lawsuit. He argued that the merger of the two corporations will increase the production and distribution of refined sugar and provide a more secure supply.

“This transaction will improve supply chain logistics and will not result in higher prices or any harm to customers and consumers,” the company said in a statement. “We hope to present our case in court.”

The Justice Department disagreed. He assured that the proposed acquisition “would further consolidate an already concentrated refined sugar market.”

The Justice Department argued that the merger would reduce competition, leaving only the new consolidated company and one other major sugar company selling a significant portion of refined sugar in the southeastern United States.

Granulated sugar being poured into Tigard, Oregon, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. (AP Photo / Jenny Kane)

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