Sugar, an instrument of geopolitical power

Sugar, an instrument of geopolitical power

Sugar has an important strategic dimension in Europe. For what reasons ?

Thierry Pouch: Two elements make this market crucial for the geopolitics of many countries: its concentration – the top ten producers represent 80% of global supply – and its growth – for more than twenty years, total demand has increased by 3 million tonnes per year. Thus, as for most other agricultural products, needs will continue to grow by 2030, then 2050, even though in recent years there have been successive sugar deficit years. For example, a country like India is the second largest producer on the planet but also the largest consumer with around 20 kg per capita. China consumes 17 million tonnes and the EU 15 million. However, paradoxically, faced with this growing market and despite the liberalization of its sugar economy with the end of its quota policy in 2017, the European Union continues to produce less and less sugar.

Conversely, Russia is investing in this culture…

Beet is an integral part of Russia’s agricultural rearmament strategy, especially since 2014 and the annexation of the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine. Russian agriculture experienced declines between the 1990s and 2000s, upon leaving the USSR, and for Vladimir Putin, this sector has always been a lever for national recovery. Thus, just as it became the world’s leading producer of wheat in 2015, its country reached the rank of leading beet power in 2021. This plant is strategic due to its many uses and allows Moscow to emancipate itself from the Europeans. , to declassify them. Previously, it was France which occupied the number one position.

What is the strategic value of beets for France?

Our country remains the 2nd largest producer of beet sugar in the world. In a world where demand for sugar and bioethanol is increasing, this industry is an instrument of power, particularly because we have a net surplus and we export half of our production, which benefits our trade balance. Furthermore, if sugar has a bad image in society, beets deserve to gain popularity for their potential. First, for the same quantity, its sugar yield is higher than that of cane. Then, in addition to the uses of its sugar in food, pharmacy, perfumery and energy with biofuels, beets also provide very interesting co-products. Its pulp is used, for example, to feed livestock. A country like France, which has the largest cattle breeding in Europe but remains dependent on the import of vegetable proteins to feed its livestock, can find in this food part of the solution to decarbonize its agriculture. Finally, sugar cultivation contributes to the economic health of many territories in Hauts-de-France, the Grand-Est and the Paris Basin. It mobilizes 23,700 planters in mainland France and more than 6,000 direct jobs in sugar factories, using only 1.5% of French agricultural land.

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