Seed World

VOLUME 7 ISSUE 2 – Sugar Rush

Of the worlds sugar production, about 20% comes from beet sugar, with the other 80% produced from sugar cane. In 2018, a little over 4.8 million ha of sugarbeet were harvested, with the EU being the world’s leading producer of beet sugar, with around 50% of the total amount produced. The northern half of Europe is where most of the EU’s sugar beet is grown, as the climate is more suitable. But besides sugar beet production, the continent also has an important refining industry that processes imported raw cane sugar.

Europe’s sugar producers are facing many challenges. The Common Agricultural Policy does not get good press. Farmers are confronted with consistent reductions in subsidies and major constraints on the use of inputs: new restrictions on seed varieties, limitations on plant protection products, obstacles to irrigation, etc. The industry has to deal with abolition of quotas, opening of the EU market to third country imports and decreased world market prices, all providing for a very challenging environment.

But do you ever wonder why we like sugar so much? Well, it seems we can blame our sweet tooth on our primate ancestors, who, millions of years ago, survived on sugar-rich fruit. The sugar craving is the result of two crucial mutations millions of years ago, which back then provided an important benefit for survival, but are less of an advantage in modern times.