In 2011/12, world sugar production stood at 175 million tonnes, of which 22% came from sugar beet. By 2020, the demand for sugar will increase by 30 million tonnes due to the increase of world population and development in emerging countries. Meanwhile the demand for bioethanol will continue to grow strongly, especially in Brazil.

evolution-production-sucriere-mondialeFrance is the largest producer of beet sugar in the world, with a production of just over 4 million tons of sugar. In addition, the sugar beet industry produced 9 million hectolitres of food alcohol and bioethanol. The average productivity in France is 13.1 tonnes of white sugar per hectare and this is increasing steadily by about 2% per year. The yield of the sugar cane is 9 tonnes of sugar per hectare per year, progressing only slowly, and requires three to four times more water than sugar beet per tonne of sugar produced.

In 2000, the production costs of sugar beet were 2 times higher than those for sugar cane in Brazil, the most competitive country in the world. This difference is reduced to only 30% because of the progress of beet yields and soaring production costs in Brazil.

Because of the "Everything But Arms" initiative and the reform of the sugar CMO (Common Market Organization), the European market is more open to international competition, with many more competitive producers, including Brazil (40% of world exports). Moreover, the growth of sugar production in Brazil is not sufficient to cover the growth in world consumption; other producing countries can be expected to increase their production. The European Union, and especially France, has a role to play in this environment.

The targets of the renegotiation of the sugar quota by 2015 in Europe and the establishment of Ecophyto 2018 in France add to these challenges. Genetic progress that is even bigger than that of the past will be essential to achieve the long term potential of this sector.