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Production of Sugar

Production of sugar from sugar cane

Cane sugar is initially extracted in sugar mills in the areas where it is grown (tropical and semi-tropical regions) as soon as it is harvested.

On average a hectare yields about 50 tonnes of sugar cane, from which seven tonnes of sugar can be extracted.

Sugar cane is similar to bamboo and has a very tough shiny outer coating which protects the sweet, woody inner fibre.


  • Sugar cane is cut into small pieces and shredded
  • It is crushed between heavy rollers
  • This is sprayed with hot water. Lime is added to clean the resulting juice
  • The brown liquid is filtered to produce a thin juice
  • The juice is boiled under vacuum to form a thick syrup
  • The crystals (raw sugar) and syrup (molasses) are separated in a centrifuge  Brown raw sugar crystals are produced
  • The raw sugar is exported around the world for local refining

Refining removes impurities and traces of molasses to produce pure white sugar crystals. The processes used are very similar to those used in the raw sugar cane mill.

Production of sugar from sugar beet

The extraction and production of white sugar from beet takes place on the same factory site.

A sample from each delivery of sugar beet entering the factories in Britain is tested to find out how much of the beet is made up of sugar and the farmer is paid accordingly.

On average a hectare yields about 41 tonnes of clean, topped roots from which seven tonnes of sugar can be extracted.


  • The sugar beet is washed and sliced into small pieces known as cossettes

  • The cossettes are sprayed with hot water. Lime and carbon dioxide are added to clean the resulting juice

  • The brown liquid is filtered

  • The juice is boiled under vacuum to produce a thick syrup. Crystals start to appear. Tiny sugar crystals called ‘seeds’ are added to encourage crystallization

  • Pure white sugar crystals are separated from the syrup in a centrifuge

Worldwide sugar production figures

World map cropped


Beet & cane production 2011/12





Metric tons sugar

Europe    31,811,000
Asia    65,163,000
Central America    12,689,000
Africa    11,079,000
North America    7,827,000
South America    44,341,000
Oceania    3,959,000
World Total (Beet & Cane)    177,445,000
World Total (Beet)    40,635,000
World Total (Cane)    136,810,000

Top 10 sugar producers 2009/10


  Metric tons sugar 
3.China12,341,000Beet & Cane
5.USA7,655,000Beet & Cane
10.Pakistan4,520,000Beet & Cane

In 2011/12 UK production of sugar beet was 1,429,000 metric tons

This data is from Sugar Economy Europe 2013 Bartens/ Mosloff 59th Edition and will be updated when new figures become avaliable.

The values are for raw sugar values for centrifugal sugar production



World Map


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Eating a healthy, balanced diet along with taking regular exercise is key to physical and mental wellbeing.

No foods should be considered as ‘good or bad’ as all foods play an important role in the diet. It is only when foods are eaten in excess that health problems result.

Read more about eating healthy