Sugar industry

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The sugar industry subsumes the production, processing and marketing of sugars (mostly saccharose and fructose). Globally, most sugar is extracted from sugar cane (~80 % predominantly in the tropics) and sugar beet (~ 20%, mostly in temperate climate like in the U.S. or Europe).

Sugar beets awaiting processing at the Holly Sugar Corporation plant near Brawley, California. Photograph by Environmental Protection Agency. (12/02/1970)

Sugar is an essential basis for soft drinks/sweetened beverages, convenience foods, fast food, candy / sweets, confectionery, baking products and the respective industries.

Sugar subsidies have driven market costs for sugar well below the cost of production. As of 2018, 3/4 of world sugar production is never traded on the open market. The global market for sugar and sweeteners is ~$77.5 billion in 2012, with sugar comprising an almost 85% share, according to estimates in a 2013 report from BCC Research. The market is thought to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 4.6%.[1]

Around 160 million tonnes of sugar is produced every year. The largest producers are Brazil (72%), India (15%) and the European Union (10%). There are more than 123 sugar-producing countries, but only 30% of the produce is traded on the international market. In 2011 global sugar export trade was worth $47bn, with $33.5bn of sugar exports from developing countries, and $12.2bn from developed countries.[2]


Sugar subsidies have driven market costs for sugar well below the cost of production. As of 2018, 3/4 of world sugar production is never traded on the open market. Brazil controls half the global market, paying the most ($2.5 billion per year) in subsidies to its sugar industry.[3]

The US sugar system is complex, using price supports, domestic marketing allotments, and tariff-rate quotas.[4] It directly supports sugar processors[4][5] rather than farmers growing sugar crops.[3] The US government also uses tariffs to keep the US domestic price of sugar 64 to 92% higher than the world market price, costing American consumers $3.7 billion per year.[5] A 2018 policy proposal to eliminate sugar tariffs, called "Zero-for-Zero", is currently (March 2018) before the US Congress.[3][6] Previous reform attempts have failed.[7]

The European Union (EU) is a leading sugar exporter. The Common Agricultural Policy of the EU used to set maximum quotas for production and exports, and a subsidized sugar sales with an EU-guaranteed minimum price.[8][9] Large import tariffs were also used to protect the market.[8] In 2004, the EU was spending €3.30 in subsidies to export €1 worth of sugar, and some sugar processors, like British Sugar, had a 25% profit margin.[10]

A 2004 Oxfam report called EU sugar subsidies "dumping" and said they harm the world's poor.[10] A WTO ruling against the EU quota and subsidy system in 2005-2006[11] forced the EU to cut its minimum price and quotas, and stop doing intervention buying.[8] The EU abolished some quotas in 2015,[12][13], but minimum prices remain.[12][14][15] Tariffs also persist for most countries.[16] In 2009, the EU granted Least Developed Countries (LDCs) zero-tariff access to the EU market[8] as part of the Everything but Arms initiative.[9]

As of 2018, India, Thailand, and Mexico also subsidize sugar.[3]

Glucose syrups produced from wheat and corn (maize) compete with the traditional dry sugar market.[citation needed]

Global players[edit]

The top 10 sugar-producing companies based on production in 2010:[17]

Rank Company 2010/11 Output [Mt] Country
1. Südzucker AG 4.2 Germany
2. Cosan SA Industria & Comercio 4.1 Brazil
3. British Sugar Plc 3.9 UK
4. Tereos Internacional SA 3.6 France
5. Mitr Phol Sugar Corp. 2.7 Thailand
6. Nordzucker Gmbh & Co KG 2.5 Germany
7. Louis Dreyfus 1.8 Netherlands
8. Wilmar International Ltd. 1.5 Singapore
9. Thai Roong Ruang Sugar Group 1.5 Thailand
10. Turkiye Seker Fabrikalari 1.34 Turkey

The global sugar industry has a low market share concentration. The top four sugar producers account for less than 20.0% of the market.[18]




  1. ^ "Global Sugar, Sweeteners Market to Hit $97 Billion by 2017". April 18, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Fairtrade and sugar briefing" (PDF). 2013. 
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  8. ^ a b c d
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ a b
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  12. ^ a b
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  17. ^ Chanyaporn Chanjaroen (November 4, 2011). "Suedzucker Leads the Top 10 Sugar-Producing Companies". 
  18. ^ "Global Sugar Manufacturing: Market Research Report". IBISWorld. 2016. 

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