History Of Sugar

A brief history on sugar,its values, and production.


The discovery of sugarcane, from which sugar, as it is known today, is derived, dates back unknown thousands of years. It is thought to have originated in New Guinea, and was spread along routes to Southeast Asia and India. The process known for creating sugar, by pressing out the juice and then boiling it into crystals, was developed in India around 500 BC.

Its cultivation was not introduced into Europe until the middle-ages, when it was brought to Spain by Arabs. Columbus took the plant, dearly held, to the West Indies, where it began to thrive in a most favorable climate.

It was not until the eighteenth century that sugarcane cultivation was began in the United States, where it was planted in the southern climate of New Orleans. The very first refinery was built in New York City around 1690; the industry was established by the 1830s. Earlier attempts to create a successful industry in the U.S. did not fare well; from the late 1830s, when the first factory was built, until 1872, sugar factories closed down almost as quickly as they had opened. It was 1872 before a factory, built in California, was finally able to successfully produce sugar in a profitable manner. At the end of that century, more than thirty factories were in operation in the U.S.


Almost all of commercially manufactured sugar is white granulated sugar, which may have been refined in factories. These sugars are then classified as either extra coarse, coarse, standard, fine, or extra fine granulated.

Other types of sugar, such as brown sugar, are produced with a slight variance from that of white sugar. Brown sugar is made by retaining much of the molasses during processing.

Candy sugar, used mainly by the brewing industry, consists of very large white crystals of sugar. Liquid sugar is made chiefly from cane sugar, while cubed sugar is processed by molding granular sugar with a sugary liquid to help cement the crystals together.


The largest producer of sugarcane is Asia, which is then followed by South America and North America. A major crop in Hawaii, it also is grown successfully in Louisiana in the southern U.S.

The largest producers of sugar beets are Germany, the U.S., and France.


The state of Hawaii, a leader in the manufacturing of sugarcane, produces more than six million tons of sugar cane each year. The crop value is estimated at more than seven million dollars. Today, Hawaii produces more of the cane sugar than any other state, with the exception of Florida. Almost all of Hawaii's raw sugar is sent to the mainland for the refining process, most of it completed in California.

The American sugar industry has a very decisive impact upon the nation's burgeoning economy. It creates more than 420,000 jobs in forty two states, and will contribute twenty six billion dollars-plus in economic activity annually.

American consumers pay almost thirty percent less than consumers in other industrialized nations when purchasing sugar.

750,000,000 bushels of corn are used each year for making sweeteners, in seventeen refineries nationwide. Put into a physical perspective, that is a cornfield stretching from coast to coast, four miles wide.

The cane sugar industry, in contrast, finds a total of twelve refineries and thirty four mills which process sugar in Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Texas. The production of this sugarcane creates almost seventy-two thousand full time jobs, both directly and indirectly.

The beet sugar industry uses almost one and one half million U.S. acres to grow its product, in thirteen states. This industry creates more than eighty-eight thousand full time jobs for people across the United States.


U.S. sweetener policy, since 1985, has operated at no cost to the U.S. government. Each year the sugar industry pays almost forty million dollars into the U.S. Treasury. Under the 1996 farm bill, operational until the year 2002, it is estimated that U.S. sugar producers will pay approximately 280 million dollars in marketing assessments.


The current policy of allowing efficient U.S. sugar growers to compete with foreign subsidies and trades provides a reliable supply of sugar at reasonable prices to American consumers. This program operates at no cost to American consumers.


*Since 1990, the cost in producing refined sugar has dropped almost thirteen percent, while consumers continue to pay more for sugar and the products that contain it. The cost of cereals has risen almost twenty percent; candy, twenty-two percent; cookies and cakes, twenty seven percent; and other baked goods more than thirty percent.

*The U.S. ranks third best in worldwide sugar prices, at forty-one cents per pound. Canada comes in first at thirty-three cents per pound, and Japan comes in last, at ninety-two cents per pound.

*Minutes to Work to Purchase One Pound of Sugar:

The U.S. comes in second in this category, at a rate of 2.4 minutes, compared to Singapore in first place, at 2.2 minutes. Mexico averages 8.4 minutes, while China, in last place, averages nearly 99 minutes.

*The average American consumes nearly forty-three pounds of sugar per year.

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