the changing
world of sugar

ABOUT AB SUGAR - the future ‚Äčof sugar

what the future
of sugar means
to us and our businesses

ABOUT AB SUGAR - the future ‚Äčof sugar
ABF AR15 Sugar World Map


As an international business, we operate in a diverse and continually changing social, political and economic environment with many opportunities and challenges. 

Although we have a global portfolio, we operate with a local heart – working together to do what is right for the location and market. As we continue to evolve to meet the world’s changing needs, it is our role to ensure we use resources responsibly, build strong rural economies and ensure thriving healthy communities.

Our success has been built on continued development and innovation to meet the changing needs of our customers, to improve our operations and to work with our growers to ensure sustainable, efficient agricultural production.

By drawing upon everything we have learnt over many decades as an advanced sugar producer, we continue to embrace innovation and strive to create more from less by working collaboratively across our group and with our stakeholders.

EU Flag

Our vision to be the world’s leading sugar business

In a diverse and continually changing environment with many opportunities and challenges, increased pressure will be placed on the competitiveness of the global and total EU sugar supply chain. 

This dynamic market place has been further exacerbated by the final round of changes made to the European Union (EU) sugar regime in October 2017; the abolition of production quotas, the removal of minimum beet prices and the elimination of the artificial distinction between sugar sold for food and drink manufacturing and retail applications in the EU.  

Furthermore, World Trade Organisation (WTO) export constraints will no longer be applicable to European producers although WTO-controlled import duties for non-preferential sugars into the EU will remain in place. As a consequence, sugar prices in the EU are moving to be more in line with world prices than has previously been the case. 

The future: EU regime reform and Brexit

The UK European Referendum vote introduces a further dimension to the 2017 EU sugar reform for sugar producers in the EU, as well as our businesses located outside of the EU. 

We are facing into a changing world of sugar post October 2017 as:  

  • suppliers to the European market look to further improve their efficiency and competitiveness. This will include energy efficiency, process technology and co-product development. Well-targeted and effective investment is key
  • with inflation in other major world markets outstripping that in the EU, we have seen EU beet sugar producers improve their position in world league tables for cost of production. With the exception of distortions generated by movements in currency exchange rates, it is anticipated that this trend will be maintained and continuing growth in sugar beet productivity will be essential to support these changes. This has already led to EU white sugar yields, expressed on a per hectare basis, exceeding those of Brazil
  • the relative profitability of alternative crops will become even more of a key determinant of production scale in the EU as growers look to maximise total farm profitability
  • EU refiners may need to take a more opportunistic view of refining, for example, by focusing on periods when world sugar prices are sufficiently below EU prices to generate attractive returns
  • global trade flows will adjust to accommodate EU exports and sales into regions outside Europe, some of which may be new markets.

The future: UK sugar trade in the global market post Brexit

The world sugar market is currently dominated by a small number of influential producing countries, each making a substantial portion of the world’s supply. These countries also have by and large all developed a mix of policies and subsidies to support domestic production. As the UK prepares to leave the EU, understanding the complexity of the trading landscape for the continued success of the UK sugar industry is critical.

AB Sugar wanted to play a part in helping the UK government make Brexit a success by providing objective data and analysis to help inform the choices they will have to make. It is on this basis, AB Sugar provided an unrestricted educational grant to Flint, in partnership with The European Centre for International Political Economy, to research the post-Brexit landscape in global sugar trade. To our knowledge, this is the first time a report of this kind has been published on UK trade in a liberalised sugar market that includes both qualitative and quantitative evidence.  The report titled 'UK sugar trade in the global market after Brexit' doesn’t necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AB Sugar.

Addressing market distortions through a new trade remedy

The British homegrown beet sugar industry is one of the most competitive and efficient industries in the world1 and is just one industry example of operating in a global market heavily distorted by Government actions that needs to be considered when future trade deals are struck with other countries around the world. On this basis, British Sugar provided an unrestricted educational grant to Competere CEO Shanker Singham to research what new approach to international trade could be taken that considered the link between market distortions internally and tariff approaches externally. 

The remedy proposed in the ‘Market Distortions and how best to deal with them: sugar sector case study’ demonstrates how the UK Government could introduce a model that would allow British beet sugar farmers to compete on a truly level playing field, and therefore free trade is genuinely fair for all parties if we want British industries to continue to thrive.

Further information on the proposals set out in the report can be viewed here and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AB Sugar and British Sugar.

1  LMC 2021 Report: Sugar and HFS Production Costs Global Benchmarking 

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