Cane sugar

About 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 

  2005 2010 2015
South America 656,171 803,323 750,259
Central America 290,915 197,071 300,187
Australia/Oceania 214,960 0 0
Mexico 1 24 50,491
Other 1,975 2,885 3,759
Total 1,164,022 1,003,303 1,104,696

Source: Statistics Canada International Trade Division

Beet Sugar

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

  2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16
Sugar Beet Harvested Acreage 33,307 30,512 24,127 22,364 21,836
Sugar Beet Production (tonnes) 784,500 827,434 668,087 638,099 584,560
Refined Sugar Production (tonnes) 119,824 120,217 97,395 88,215 93,500

Source: Rogers Sugar and Alberta Sugar Beet Growers
Note: 2015/16 estimate