What is the Sugar Industry?

Tess C. Taylor

The sugar industry refers to the industry that grows, processes, refines, transports, buys, and sells sugar around the world. Sugar has been an important staple of the human diet, dating back as far as 300 BC when Alexander the Great brought it back to the civilized world through trade routes that reached from Asia into Europe, through India and the Middle East. This industry is a thriving market that is driven by humanity’s need for sweet foods and beverages consumed at increasingly high rates.

Cane sugar.
Cane sugar.

Sugar cane and sugar beets, the raw forms refined sugar, are grown around the globe in regions where there are wetlands and tropical climates. Wherever sugar is cultivated, thousands of acres of plants cover large swaths of land. Major sugar-producing countries include the United States (US), China, India, and Brazil.

Stalks of sugar cane.
Stalks of sugar cane.

The sugar industry harvests raw sugar product and transports it to refining plants. Sugar refineries and mills reduce the sugar cane into several forms, such as raw sugar, sugar granules, or powdered sugar. Sometimes the refining plants also process raw sugar into brown sugar, molasses, syrups, and liquid sugars. These products are then shipped to other companies through the sugar industry to produce the foods and products that humans consume.

Sugar is a popular additive to drinks, including coffee.
Sugar is a popular additive to drinks, including coffee.

Just like other industries that sell products that are in great demand by consumers, the sugar industry controls the amount of sugar to be transported to other regions. Factors such as the availability of sugar products due to growing seasons, transportation and fuel costs, taxes and other costs of trading internationally can all play a part in the costs of buying and selling sugar.

Raw sugar.
Raw sugar.

In many of the world’s most developed countries, sugar is consumed at the rate of 20-30 teaspoons or more per day, with teens accounting for the highest number of consumers enjoying sugar daily. In cooperation with the sugar industry, studies from the US Food and Drug Administration indicate that the consumption of sugar products and sweeteners has increased significantly since the 1980s.

Sugar beets are a source of sugar.
Sugar beets are a source of sugar.
Molasses, a byproduct of refining sugar.
Molasses, a byproduct of refining sugar.
Sugar cane growns in tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world.
Sugar cane growns in tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world.

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