Project 7 – For the love of sugar

Australian sugar production figures have been faithfully recorded each season since 1930 and they make interesting reading.  I have abbreviated my spreadsheet to show the figures for the year at the beginning of each decade but from 2000 I have recorded annual production.  I  have limited my research to Queensland state because that is where the vast majority of sugar is grown and processed and recent New South Wales figures are not easily accessible.

In 2010/2011 there were major natural disasters in Queensland with two cyclones and  widespread flooding throughout the state.  Not only did this affect all types of crops but there was also significant infrastructure damage and personal housing, possession and business devastation.

The drop off in sugar production in that season can clearly been seen from the above analysis.  Ignoring the figures of that year because of these freak-of-nature events it can be seen that over the past 80 years sugar production has increased by over 700%.  Looking at this massive increase in production is thought-provoking and raises some interesting questions.

In 1930, where my analysis starts, the world population was 2 billion, today it has just reached 7 billion, an enormous jump ….. but not 700%.  So why the leap in the Australian sugar market?  In 1930 there were around 7 million people in Australia, today there are 22 million – however, 80% of our sugar production is exported.

  • Have previously underdeveloped countries become more aware of sugar in their diet over recent years so they import more?
  • Do we each consume the same amount as we did 80 years ago and the increase in world population accounts for the greater demand?  Or has our individual intake shot up?
  • Is the world increase in sugar production out of step with ours in Australia, meaning that we, as a nation, have found that this crop is especially suited to our climate so have increased our stake in the world market?
  • Is it possible to know which nations consume the larger proportion of sugar and what is the increase in the amount per head over the last 80 years?
  • And so on, and so on ……….
  • And where do artificial sweeteners fit into the equation?

I can’t answer these questions, or others in the same vein, no matter how interesting the subject is.  What I want to highlight is the product itself, the fact that it is an important world commodity and that the industry is unlikely to go into a decline, because it has become a universal necessity.

Sugarcane is a vital rural industry for Australia and some of our current statistics include:
3rd largest raw sugar supplier in the world – Brazil is the largest with Thailand, India and Australia generally fighting for the next spots.
7th largest agricultural exporter in Australia
80% of production is exported
$1.5 – $2.5 billion value of production (yes that is BILLION)
4000 cane farm businesses
24 sugar mills
6 bulk storage ports.

Figures supplied by Bernard Milford, Chief Policy Officer, Canegrowers.


About Claire B

I am a passionate printmaker, paper maker and book artist. I'm a 'forever' student and frequently attend courses and workshops to extend and improve my creative skills.
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