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 for Refining

  2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
South America 870,286 750,103 850,146 886,397 1,038,735
Central America 187,064 300,226 302,500 154,751 203,176
Mexico 122,779 50,491 11 67,186 77
Other 3,226 4,024 2,914 4,109 5,657
Total 1,183,355 1,104,844 1,155,571 1,112,443 1,247,645

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

  2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18
Sugar Beet Harvested Acreage 24,127 22,364 21,836 28,644 26,940
Sugar Beet Production (tonnes) 668,087 638,099 584,560 821,459 876,929
Refined Sugar Production (tonnes) 97,395 87,327 92,745 122,210 127,305

Source: Rogers Sugar and Alberta Sugar Beet Growers