The global sugar industry is responsible for this staple food of the human diet. It is processed in almost every food category today, with global production levels exceeding 170 million metric tons every year. Brazil often dominates the production and export market annually, but the United States is often a top 10 producer. American growers and refiners generated 8.2 million metric tons in 2016.
We get sugar almost exclusively from two crops. Growers plant sugar beets or sugar cane to create this industry staple. Out of the 1.9 billion metric tons of sugar cane grown worldwide each year, Brazil is responsible for about 40% of the total crop. Russia and France grow the most sugar beets to contribute to the global trade of sugar each year.
China, Indonesia, and the United States typically import the most sugar each year, while Brazil almost always ranks as the top exporting country each year. Although annual cycles can alter some of the facts and statistics about this industry. It is also one of the most stable commodities that we use each year.
Important Sugar Industry Statistics
#1. The United States harvests about 912,000 acres of sugar cane each year to support the domestic and global industry. Florida is the leading state based on total production volume for this crop. (Statista)
#2. Sugar beet production value in the United States reached $1.45 billion in 2016. (Statista)
#3. Americans consume about 11 million tons of sugar each year, with the average retail price per pound of the granulated version coming to about $0.65. (Statista)
#4. The average price per ton for sugar cane grown in Texas is $20.50. (Statista)
#5. Sugar cane is responsible for about 80% of the total production that occurs in the industry each year. Ten countries, including Brazil, Thailand, India, China, and the United States, are responsible for almost 70% of total global output. (International Sugar Organization)
#6. About 110 countries are currently producing sugar from either beets or cane, but only eight are creating products from both crops. Almost every country that produces sugar has subsidies in place to support growers(International Sugar Organization)
#7. Although the annual rate of global sugar consumption rose by an average of 2.01% in the decade of the 2000s, that figure decelerated to 0.84% annual growth in the 2010s. There was no growth in consumption registered in 2018. (International Sugar Organization)
#8. The world sugar trade involves about 64 million tons each year, with raw sugar accounting for 60% of the sales that happen. Brazil, Thailand, Europe, Australia, and India are responsible for about 70% of the export market. Brazil accounts for 45% of global exports by itself annually. (International Sugar Organization)
#9. After seeing three years of a worldwide statistical deficit in the sugar economy, 2018 returned to a surplus year where output exceeded use by 6.1 million tons. (International Sugar Organization)
#10. Global sugar consumption reaches 173.95 million tons each year, with India responsible for the most usage each year. (Statista)
#11. The European Union imports about 1.5 million tons of sugar each year. (Statista)
#12. The United States imports about 2.5 million tons of sugar annually. (Statista)
#13. Per capita consumption of sugar around the world decreased from 22.9kg in 2017 to 22.6kg in 2019. (International Sugar Organization)
#14. Thailand is the largest net exporter of white sugar at 4.53 million metric tons. Brazil comes in second in this category (3.08), followed by Europe (2.78), India (2.46), and Pakistan (1.15). (International Sugar Organization)
#15. Indonesia is the largest net importer of sugar at 5.23 million metric tons each year. China comes in second at 5.06, while the United States is third at 2.37. They’re followed by Malaysia (1.95) and Bangladesh (1.90). (International Sugar Organization)
#16. Sugar producers in the United States support over 142,000 employment opportunities in 22 states. (U.S. Sugar Association)
#17. Over 11,000 family farmers are currently active in the U.S. sugar industry today. They planted a combined 2 million acres of sugar cane and sugar beets for the 2018 growing season. (U.S. Sugar Association)
#18. The United States is one of the only major producers of sugar that produces more sugar from sugar beets than sugar cane. The 2018 growing season had a 55% to 45% split between the two products respectively. (U.S. Sugar Association)
#19. There are only eight sugar cane refineries operating in the United States, and all of them are at coastal locations. Only two facilities are west of the Mississippi River. (U.S. Sugar Association)
#20. Only three states produce sugar cane in the United States: Texas, Florida, and Louisiana. (U.S. Sugar Association)
#21. With the exception of one facility in southern California, all of the sugar beet refineries are located in the northern states. Michigan has the most, with five operational facilities that support the sugar industry. (U.S. Sugar Association)
#22. The root of a sugar beet contains about 18% sugar, which means the rest of the plant can become food products for livestock or serve other needs. Producers use almost every part of the crop to generate profits. (American Sugar Alliance)
#23. Sugar prices today are as low as they were 30 years ago, but the cost of a candy bar has risen by almost 300%. The commodity has plummeted in price by over 50% since 2010. (American Sugar Alliance)
#24. Sugar subsidies in the United States have a value of $1.3 billion that come directly from taxpayer support. (American Sugar Alliance)
#25. Americans have decreased their daily added sugars consumption from 21 teaspoons per day to 16.1 teaspoons over the past 15 years. (U.S. Sugar Association)
#26. The percentage of calories from added sugars in the average American diet has fallen from 18.1% in 2000 to 12.6% in 2016. (U.S. Sugar Association)
#27. From 1970 to 2014, the consumption of sugar from sugar cane or sugar beets has decreased by approximately 30%. That figure reflects a drop from 283 calories per day to 192 calories. (U.S. Sugar Association)
#28. The decade of the 2010s brought sugar consumption back in line for American consumers to what it was in the 1920s. The lowest year in this figure is still 1909 when sugars and sweeteners were responsible for 11.9% of total calories. (U.S. Sugar Association)
#29. Data from the past 40 years shows that obesity trends do not mirror the data that sugar consumption follows. Obesity rates are going up as sugar intake goes down, but the rise in total caloric consumption is working in parallel with those figures. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#30. Over 30 million Americans have a diabetes diagnosis, with millions more encountering the same issue all over the world. Although sugar provides calories that can contribute to weight gain when not consumed in moderation, this disease is caused more by lifestyle factors and genetics. (U.S. Sugar Association)
#31. Over 362,000 hectares of sugar crops were harvested in 2019 in Australia, which is the lowest figure since 2013. Just over 30 million tons of sugar cane were crushed to support domestic and international sales. (Australian Sugar Milling Council)
#32. About 3.4 million tons of sugar was made available to the export market by Australia in 2019. That figure is the lowest amount since 2013. (Australian Sugar Milling Council)
#33. The number of growers reached 4,050 in Australia in 2019, reflecting a loss of 250 family businesses in the country for this industry. Despite the decline, the total direct employment numbers have remained unchanged for the past decade. (Australian Sugar Milling Council)
#34. Poor harvest conditions for the 2019 year in the United States resulted in a 4% decline in overall production. Brazil saw declines in production as well with more sugar cane diverted to make ethanol. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
#35. Sugar cane growers in Louisiana create an economic impact of $2 billion when raw sugar factories get included with the data. Over 400,000 acres across 24 parishes produce about 13 million tons each year. (American Sugar Cane League)
#36. The average farm that grows sugar cane produces about 1,000 planted acres to contribute to the industry. (American Sugar Cane League)
#37. Americans pay about 20% less for their sugar products than grocery shoppers do in other countries. (American Sugar Alliance)
#38. Over 40 different sugar factories have closed in the United States since 1993 because of the low prices in the United States, with an estimated 109,000 jobs lost because of the issue. (American Sugar Alliance)
#39. The sugar beet farmers in the United States have the highest efficiency rates in the world despite having the highest environmental and labor regulations to follow when producing a crop. (American Sugar Alliance)
#40. Trade deals cause the United States to import sugar from over 40 countries even though growers and refiners produce enough to satisfy the entire domestic American need each year. (American Sugar Alliance)
#41. 70% of customers in the United States say that they prefer to purchase homegrown sugar, even if it costs more to purchase something that comes from local producers. (American Sugar Alliance)
#42. The government of Mexico directly owns a portion of their country’s domestic sugar production, making the industry the largest exporter and producer. (American Sugar Alliance)
#43. The largest producers of sugar products also provide the highest number of subsidies, with Brazil leading the way at $2.5 billion per year. (American Sugar Alliance)
#44. The largest publicly-held sugar-using companies have seen equity increases of 136% since 2004, which is nearly triple the growth found in the S&P index. (American Sugar Alliance)
#45. The profit margins for the largest sugar-containing products have been one-third higher than any other public company in the United States for the last 15 years. (American Sugar Alliance)
#46. 38 of the foreign suppliers of sugar in the United States are from developing countries. (American Sugar Alliance)
Sugar Industry Trends and Analysis
The first sugar cane planted in the United States happened in 1751 when growers in Louisiana first attempted to grow the crop. Sugar beets wouldn’t come until 1836 when farmers near Philadelphia decided to give them a try. What is unique about this industry, even with its history and politics, is that it has always been a family business.
When we look toward the future of the sugar industry, it is clear to see that times are changing. People are becoming conscious of how much they consume, making conscious choices to reduce what is in their diet. That means fewer profits are available, causing prices to rise for the commodity in some sectors to make up for the shortfall.
The days of 2% annual consumption growth are likely gone for good. Although the industry isn’t going to disappear, it is going to need to change its approach to consumers. When used in moderation, sugar can be an essential part of the human diet.
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