France is the world's eighth largest producer of sugar and Europe's leading sugar producer. The sugar sector employs 44,500 people and generates a turnover of 3.8 billion euros.
Sugar is mainly used in two forms:
* direct use as table sugar (cube or caster sugar);
* indirect use in the production of sweetened foods.
In 2016-2017, 2,8 million tonnes of sugar were used in France, including 300,000 tonnes of table sugar (11%), 1,600,000 tonnes for the food industry (58 %), 330,000 tonnes for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries (12%), and 540,000 tonnes for alcohol and ethanol (19%).
Until 1960, table sugar accounted for 50% of overall sugar sales in France. At the beginning of the 1970s it fell to around 45%, decreasing further to 40% in the early 1980s. At present, it represents just over 18,4 % of overall sales.
Changes in sugar sales
In 1826, if we compare the volume of sugar sold with the total population, average sugar availability was 2 kilograms per capita. This average increased throughout the century, to 5.5 kg in 1860, 8.6 kg in 1880 and 12 kg in 1900 before reaching 20 kg on the eve of World War I.
During the war, sugar became a scarce commodity and in 1918 average per capita sugar sales were only 8 kg per year. Between the wars, it rose to 23 kg, but plunged again to 6 kg per year during World War II.
The prosperous 30-year period between 1945 and 1975 saw another rapid rise: in 1958 the French had 30 kg of sugar at their disposal, rising to 36 kg by 1970.
Sugar sales reflect the availability and volume of sugar on the market, at a country or population level. In order to understand the sugar consumption levels of individuals, it is preferable to use data from food surveys performed by INCA (Individual and National Food Consumption Survey) and CREDOC (Research Centre for the Study and Observation of Living Conditions).These individual dietary surveys reveal that sucrose consumption was estimated at 25 kg per year per inhabitant in 2013. This sugar is consumed as table sugar and as sugar in sweetened products.
In France, sugar beet cultivation is located primarily in the north and north-east of the country. In 2016-2017, sugar beet is cultivated in eight French regions for approximately 400,000 hectares, the most important regions being Hauts-de-France and Grand Est, with 195 730 and 95 215 hectares respectively cultivated in 2016-2017.
Although production areas have decreased, beet yields, at 13 t/ha are among the highest in the European Union. France enjoys a number of exceptional advantages in terms of beet growing: natural factors, available space, farm size and human experience.
Beet crops are generally grouped into sugar processing plant supply zones (around 30 km) with which the 26,000 growers in France are currently bound by contract. There is a high level of concentration of companies and sugar processing plants in France: seven companies in 2016-2017 (compared with 84 in 1950) and 25 sugar processing plants in 2016-2017 (compared with 105 in 1950).
Growing sugar cane
France is the only country in the European Union, along with Spain and Portugal, to grown sugar cane. The French sugar cane industry islocated in three overseas départements: Reunion in the Indian Ocean, and Guadeloupe and Martinique in the French West Indies. French Guiana also cultivates sugar cane.
Grown in a traditional way, the sugar cane is destined for the production of raw sugar, as well as rum and agricultural alcohol.The harvest can stretch over several months (from February to June in the French West Indies, and September to November in Reunion).