Over 90% of Canada’s refined sugar (sucrose) is produced from raw cane sugar, imported from tropical regions, principally from South and Central America. Before it comes to Canada, sugar cane is partially refined into raw sugar at mills operated near the sugar cane fields. Bulk raw sugar is transported to Canadian ports in ocean-going cargo vessels which carry from 20,000 - 40,000 tonnes at a time. This “raw sugar” consists of brown, coarse granulated sugar crystals with many impurities making it unfit for human consumption. The sugar refining process is a capital intensive, technologically sophisticated process that separates the pure sucrose crystals from molasses, plant residue and other impurities.
To meet the Canadian food standard for sugar (at least 99.8% pure sucrose), refining is essential to remove impurities from raw cane sugar.
Canada - Raw Sugar Imports for Refining
Source: Statistics Canada International Trade Division
Refined sugar is also produced from sugar beets grown in Alberta. The sugar beets are harvested in the fall then processed to extract sugar and separate it from the fibre, water and other non-sugar materials. Major by-products of the beet sugar industry include beet pulp, which is used to produce a highly nutritious cattle feed, and molasses. Whether produced from sugar cane or sugar beets, the result is the same, pure sugar (at least 99.8% sucrose).
Canada Beet Sugar Production
|Sugar Beet Harvested Acreage||26,940||28,407||28,491||30,092||28,097|
|Sugar Beet Production (tonnes)||876,929||848,525||465,017||903,753||877,410|
|Refined Sugar Production (tonnes)||127,305||128,867||65,971||118,967||121,360|
Note: 45% of the 2019 crop remained unharvested due to extreme October weather events
Source: Lantic Inc (Rogers Sugar) and Alberta Sugar Beet Growers
Domestic and Export Shipments
The Canadian sugar industry produces and distributes approximately 1.4 million tonnes of refined sugar annually in four provinces. Refined sugar is produced from imported raw cane sugar and Canadian sugar beets. While Canadian companies have actively pursued export markets, export sales have been restricted by foreign trade barriers.
|Canadian Sugar Shipments||2018||2019||2020||2021||2022|
|Total Shipments (Tonnes)||1,283,300||1,310,906||1,350,019||1,366,951||1,383,644|
Source: Statistics Canada and KPMG
Retail and Industrial Shipments
Refined sugar is produced for both industrial (food manufacturers and food service outlets) and retail customers (packaged sugar for direct consumer use). More than 85% of sugar production is industrial.
|Canadian Sugar Shipments: Retail and Industrial||Share of Domestic Shipments|
Granulated sugar is the most common form of sugar sold in Canada to both retail and industrial customers. Liquid sugar and liquid invert sugar are also used principally in the beverage and confectionery sectors. Specialty sugars such as brown or yellow sugar and icing sugar are also produced to meet varying consumer and industrial needs.
Canadian Sugar Shipments by Product Class (2022)
Statistics Canada publishes data on "food available for consumption" (i.e., disappearance or availability), including data for sugars and syrups made from sugar cane or sugar beets. These data reflect the total amount entering the market, regardless of final use. This data also accounts for Canada-US trade in sugar containing products, recognizing the significant trade surplus in sugar exported in food products.
Sugar disappearance data provides a basis for examining food consumption changes over time (trends). It is not a measure of actual sugar consumption because it does not account for losses at the retail level, in households, restaurants or institutions during storage and preparation, or for unconsumed food.
Statistics Canada data for refined sugar indicates that per capita availability decreased over the last 25 years (1997-2021) from 36 kg to 29 kg per person per year. Actual consumption, using the Statistics Canada/USDA 41% waste adjustment factor1, is estimated to have declined from 21.2 kg to 16.8 kg per person per year (a decline from 58 g to 46 g per person per day).
1Hall KD, Guo J, Dore M, Chow CC. The progressive increase of food waste in America and its environmental impact. PLoS One 2009, 4, e7940.; USDA, ERS, Food Availability: Loss-Adjusted Food. https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-availability-per-capita-data-system/loss-adjusted-food-availability-documentation/
|Sugar Disappearance, Canada (kg per capita)||kg per person|
SOURCE: Statistics Canada
- Domestic supply is equal to production, imports and beginning stocks, less exports and ending stocks.
- Statistics Canada data takes into account imports and exports of sugar in sugar containing products.
- Sugar disappearance is not equal to actual sugar consumption.