Cane Sugar Refining

SIC 2062

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This entry includes establishments primarily engaged in refining purchased raw cane sugar and sugar syrup. Sugar cane is cut and milled into raw cane sugar, then shipped in that form to refiners to be processed into syrup, granulated sugar, powdered sugar, or brown sugar. Establishments that manufacture the raw cane sugar from sugar cane are included under SIC 2061: Cane Sugar, Except Refining. Other products of the cane sugar refining process include blackstrap molasses and invert sugar.

The U.S. cane sugar refining industry has been facing heavy competition and increased economic challenges since the early 1980s. Manufacturers of beet sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and artificial sweeteners have all taken a large share of the market away from cane sugar refiners. Sugarbeets, for example, accounted for 53 percent of all U.S. sugar production in the late 2000s. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, value of shipments in the cane sugar refining industry fell from $3.0 billion in 2002 to $2.3 billion in 2007. The national average price of sugar, on the other hand, rose during the same time period, from $28.40 per ton to $29.60.

To produce refined sugar from raw sugar, the raw sugar crystals are transported aboard ships or trains to refineries, where the yellow-brown film is rinsed off. The sugar crystals are dissolved in water and poured through a series of filters until the liquid is clear. The syrup is heated so the liquid evaporates, leaving crystals again. The crystals are spun in a centrifuge, and then the white sugar is separated into a drying drum where any remaining moisture is eliminated. Syrup that does not form crystals is used to make brown sugar. Molasses is another by-product of the refining process.

Soft drink manufacturers switched to HFCS from liquid cane sugar in the 1980s, striking a severe blow to the sugar industry. Meanwhile, per capita consumption of sugar (both beet and cane) plummeted from roughly 102 pounds in 1970 to about 60 pounds in 1990. By the late 2000s, per capita consumption of sugar had fallen to 44 pounds. This steady drop in consumption led to a reduction in cane sugar refineries, from 22 in 1981 to just 12 at the turn of the twenty-first century. By 2009, only seven U.S. sugar cane refineries were still in operation in four states: Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Texas. To compensate for the losses, cane sugar refiners diversified, adding sugar beet processing operations and/or wet-milling operations to produce HFCS and other corn sweeteners. While high fructose corn syrup producers undercut the sugar market and Americans consumed more corn syrup than refined sugar in the first decade of the 2000s, candy and pastry makers were not impressed with substitutes for refined cane sugar. Insisting they achieved better results with pure cane sugar, candy and pastry makers continued to support the industry.

In addition to the rise in HFCS, cane sugar refiners faced other problems as well. Domestic production of sugar cane dropped, and a strict quota on imported raw cane sugar was imposed by the federal government. The drop in availability of imported raw sugar was especially serious to the industry, since U.S. sugar refineries processed more imported raw sugar than domestically milled raw sugar. The longstanding federal sugar program that had protected U.S. farmers from foreign competition was challenged by the United States-Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), which was adopted by the United States in 2005 and included a provision for Central American countries and the Dominican Republic to phase-out their sugar tariffs over 15 years. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) also had a detrimental effect on the industry. In 2008, Mexico was granted free access to the U.S. market, and, according to the American Sugar Alliance (ASA), as much as 1 million tons of subsidized Mexican sugar could flood the United States annually. The 2008 Farm Bill included some provisions to help U.S. sugar producers deal with this issue. The Farm Bill also continued the policy of not granting subsidies to U.S. sugar farmers while maintaining market balance.

Sugarcane refining has potential growth in the development of alternative fuels, a rapidly expanding industry in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Ethanol can be produced from a wide variety of plant-based feedstocks, most commonly grain or sugar crops. In the late 2000s, Brazil and the United States were the world leaders in ethanol production. Brazil, which distilled almost 5 billion gallons in 2008, used primarily sugarcane, whereas U.S. ethanol production was almost exclusively from corn. China, which ranked third in ethanol production, also relied on corn, while fourth-ranked India relied primarily on sugarcane. Colombia had a rapidly developing sugarcane-based ethanol industry and was expected to have outputs of near one million gallons a year by 2010.

Industry leaders in the late 2000s included Imperial Sugar Co., American Sugar Refining, and United States Sugar Corp. Imperial Sugar, based in Sugar Land, Texas, operated two sugar cane refineries in the late 2000s, one in Georgia and the other in Louisiana. Imperial posted sales of more than $592 million in 2008. American Sugar Refining, maker of Domino sugar, was headquartered in Yonkers, New York, and operated three refineries, in New York, Maryland, and Louisiana. American Sugar was jointly owned by the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida and the Florida Crystals Corp.

The nation's largest producer of sugar cane and refined cane sugar, United States Sugar, was based in Clewiston, Florida, and had sales of $120.8 million in 2007. In the late 2000s the company was producing 700,000 tons of sugar annually. In May 2009, Florida received approval to purchase about 73,000 acres of the Unites States Sugar's land, which it planned to use for an environmental restoration project, as sugar cane growers had been accused of polluting wetlands, including the Everglades, with fertilizer runoff. The deal would leave enough land for United States Sugar to continue to operate for about 20 years, according to the Miami Herald.

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News and information about Cane Sugar Refining

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ASR Group, a cane sugar refining and marketing company, acquired...demonstrates our commitment to cane sugar refining, a model that brings competition...electricity. ASR Group is a cane sugar refining company. More information...
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Entertainment Close-up; November 6, 2013; 682 words
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Food & Beverage Close-Up; October 11, 2012; 659 words
...Refining, Inc., a subsidiary of Florida Crystals Corp. and Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, is a cane sugar refining company, with a production capacity of more than 6.5 million short tons of sugar. The company produces a full...
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Food & Beverage Close-Up; August 22, 2013; 547 words
...vertically integrated with its refining partner Florida Crystals Corp. which now own and operate the world's largest cane sugar refining company, ASR Group. Wedgworth added, "I'm very comfortable with the transition and am pleased to be able to...

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