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Information @ a Glance

General

  • Sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.), a member of the Chenopodiaceae family, is a plant whose root contains a high concentration of sucrose. It is grown commercially for sugar.

  • The sugar beet is directly related to the beetroot, chard and fodder beet, all descended by cultivation from the sea beet.

Growth

  • Sugar beet is a hardy biennial plant that can be grown commercially in a wide variety of temperate climates.

  • It produces a large (12 kg) storage root whose dry mass is 1520% sucrose by weight.

  • In commercial beet production, the root is harvested after the first growing season, when the root is at its maximum size.

  • In most temperate climates, beets are planted in the spring and harvested in the autumn.

  • Tropical sugarbeet requires good sunshine during its growth period. Sugarbeet can be grown during October to March with a well distributed rainfall of 300 350 mm across the growing period.

  • The sugarbeet crop requires an optimum temperature range of 20 to 250C for germination, 30 to 350C for growth and development and 25 to 350C for sugar accumulation.

Processing

  • The processing starts by slicing the beets into thin chips. This process increases the surface area of the beet to make it easier to extract the sugar.

  • The extraction takes place in a diffuser where the beet is kept in contact with hot water for about an hour.

  • Diffusion is the process by which the colour and flavour of tea comes out of the tea leaves in a teapot but a typical diffuser weighs several hundred tons when full of beet and extraction water.

  • In sugar beet processing, the sliced beets are subjected to a thermal treatment by hot water at 7074C.
    This leads to alteration of the cell tissue and loss of pectin into the juice, which consequently needs complicated purification.

Market

  • The beet industry has waxed and waned over the years but today Europe produces 120 million tones of beet every year, used to make 16 million tones of white sugar.

  • France and Germany are still the main producers but sugar is produced from beet in all European countries except Luxembourg.

  • Almost 90% of sugar consumed in Europe is locally grown.

  • Brazil, India and the EU are the biggest sugar producers. Brazil exports by far the most sugar, although the EU, Thailand and Australia are also major sugar exporters. In contrast, China, the USA and to a lesser extent, India are net sugar importers.

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