Course:HIST104-99A.Group D

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A Short History of Sugar Production

Various forms of sugar have existed since ancient times in places like India, where sugar cane was cultivated and refined for thousands of years before arriving in Europe.[1] The Arabs discovered sugar cane and refining processes through their conquest of Asia, and this knowledge was transferred to Europeans when they conquered the Holy Land from the Arabs during the crusades.[2] As the Holy Land was increasingly volatile and the Turkish armies conquered the area at the end of the 15th century, they disrupted the trade that had developed.[3] The Europeans had started looking for new places to grow the in-demand crops, and despite experimenting with islands such as Madeira decided on the New World.[4] At this time sugar was very much a luxury, selling for as much as £2.75. [5] Growing popularity of sweetened foods and drinks such as cocoa raised the demand for sugar, which raised the amount of sugar imported into Great Britain from 10,000 tonnes in 1700 to 150,000 tonnes in 1800. [6] As production increased the price of sugar fell, it became more commonplace in the homes of the middle class of Europe.

At the turn of the 19th century there was increasing competition with the cane sugar industry in the Americas from experimentation with beet sugar in Europe. [7] Sugar beets can be grown in cooler, more temperate climates than sugar cane, which must be grown in tropical climates, making it ideal to be grown in Europe. Although the beet sugar industry had to weather the collapse of Napoleon’s regime (its biggest benefactor), the cane sugar industry had to deal with the loss of slave labour which had kept production costs down. [8] Beet sugar is not as labour-intensive as cane sugar is to harvest and refine. The percentage of sugar produced worldwide was 14% beet sugar in 1852, but by the beginning of the 1900s had increased to being more than 65% of all sugar traded. [9] Sugar beets have helped to increase the widespread use of sugar, with world production for the 2009/2010 year reaching 157.160 million tonnes. [10]

Sugar and the Slave Trade

In the middle 1600s, French, English, and Dutch settlers arrived in the Caribbean to lay out plantations to produce cash crops such as sugar and tobacco. As the indigenous population was now extinct due to harsh treatment by the earlier Spanish settlers, and epidemic disease- smallpox, the answer for labour was to bring Africans as slaves to work on the plantations. In 1700 large numbers of Africans and few Europeans made up the society of the Caribbean. Christopher Columbus and the Spanish people who desired to live in the Caribbean,chose Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) as their headquarters. Columbus planned to have trading posts in the Caribbean to provide work for the settlers. Europeans desired silks and spices for the trade but they were not available in that region. Mining gold provided work by using the indigenous people, the Tainos. They were brutally treated, causing their numbers to decline rapidly on Hispaniola, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. An epidemic of smallpox in the early 1500s further reduced the population of Tainos in the 1540s, from four million in 1492, to several thousand. Their society disappeared from the Caribbean. In the mid 1600s, French, English, and Dutch settlers arrived to become plantation owners, growing cash crops of sugar and tobacco. This necessitated enslaving millions of African people to work in the plantations in the Caribbean.


Bentley-Ziegler-Streets: p400, 401

The Chemistry of Sugar

Sugar, which is known for its sweet flavor, is primarily composed of sucrose, lactose, and fructose. [11] The term “sugar” usually refers to “sucrose,” which is also referred to as “table sugar,” and is often contained from sugar cane or sugar beet. Sucrose is the organic compound commonly known as table sugar. It is a white, odourless, crystalline powder with a sweet taste, and is best known for its role in human nutrition. The molecule is a disaccharide derived from glucose and fructose, and has a molecular formula of C12H22O11. [12]

Sucrose (1).gif

The chemical structure of sucrose

Sugar and Tooth Decay

Sugar is also known for its ability to cause tooth decay when it is combined with Saliva and bacteria. After eating sugar, especially sucrose, glycoproteins (a combination of carbohydrate and protein molecule)start to form plaque, which then may lead to cavities. Then, the bacteria forms lactic acid, which in turn creates the acidity needed to start a cavity. To prevent tooth decay, recommendations include frequent brushing and flossing, a diet of more complex carbon hydrates that are low in sugar, using mouthwashes and toothpastes containing fluoride, and limiting intake of sucrose-based snacks. [13]

B.T. Rogers and the Creation of BC Sugar

Rogers sugar mill.jpg

BC Sugar, formerly Rogers Sugar, is the largest sugar refinery in Canada [14]. Today it produces granulated sugar, icing sugar, brown sugar, sugar cubes, and sugar made into syrup – at an astonishing rate of 240,000 tonnes per year. [15]

In 1989, well-reputed journalist, John Schreiner, wrote a book compiling the extensive Rogers family business records called The Refiners: A Century of BC Sugar. [16] The latter half of the 19th century saw the industrial world increase its sugar consumption dramatically - in Canada, annual per capita consumption had grown from 15 pounds in 1868 to forty-four pounds in 1890. [17]

In 1890, an ambitious 24-year old American man named B.T. Rogers capitalized on this growing market upon his move to Vancouver. Having spent his school vacations at his father’s refinery, he completed a course in sugar chemistry and gained experience working for his father. [18] Sponsored by New York and Montreal businessmen, he managed to get a $30,000 subsidy from Vancouver’s city council – in the form of land – to build a sugar refinery. [19] Rogers Sugar Refinery was the first major industry in the Pacific Northwest not associated with logging or fishing, and B.T. Rogers lived a luxurious life by the turn of the century.

Today, BC Sugar uses computers to accurately boil its sugar. But in the late 19th and early 20th century, sugar boiling was a precise skill. [20] B.T. mastered it at a young age, and while working for the Redpath refinery in Montreal - the only Canadian refinery at the time [21] - he realized the lucrative opportunity waiting on the west coast that was made possible by the new Canadian Pacific Railway. Replacing Montreal as sugar producers in the west was a practical investment. Canada was protected from the American sugar market by tariffs – this is why, initially, sugar came to British Columbia from Montreal. [22] Being stationed on the west coast meant that lower freight costs would extinguish east coast competition, and buying sugar on the Pacific was much easier from a port city. [23]

Rogers sugar survived the Great Depression11 and sugar rationing caused by the World Wars,[24] as well as attacks from other attempted west coast sugar companies. [25] It invested in factories and plantations in Fiji and the Dominican Republic,[26] and even expanded into Alberta with a sugar beet processing factory. [27] In 2008, BC Sugar merged with Lantic Inc. (a sugar refinery that started in 1915 in New Brunswick) to be a single Canadian sugar company. [28]

Sugar in Pop Culture By Amanda Robertson

Sugar holds an amazing presence in the world of pop culture. If one looks up the word on, one will get 502,000 results. Surely some of these are repeats, but the amount of songs, music videos, and simple video clips named “Sugar” is substantial1. A similar method of searching for its presence in the popular sphere is to search for the word on You will find local businesses, nightclubs, a comedian, musicians, films, stores, fashion lines, and simple fan pages dedicated to the sweet stuff itself2. Upon looking up the word on google images, there is an impressive range of visuals related to the sweetener. At the top are the literal interpretations, but the range of images towards the bottom gets more interesting. The small creature known as a “sugar-glider” is the star of many pictures, as well as sugar cookies creatively iced3. This simple method of observing sugar in pop culture through various popular websites effectively shows the existence of not just a literal meaning of sugar, but many associations that the substance has collected.


2. → search “sugar”


Politics of Sugar from Manufacturing to Trading Globally in the Last Half Century by Ahbhisheik Karunapathy

Sugar has been a highly sought after commodity by the Western world through history. Due to its high demand since its discovery by Europe, the political climate behind sugar has had an interesting history from the 1500’s to the present. This has been more so evident in the past century with governments heavily controlling the importing of foreign sugar in order to protect domestic manufacturers.

The United States of America and India are two countries that are at the opposite end of the sugar spectrum. Where India has a large sugar manufacturing industry and is trying to export its excess, the US is protecting its artificial sweetener industry by subsidizing corn, which is used to create high-fructose corn syrup, while charging high tariffs for imported sugar.

Sugar is one of the few commodities that is heavily protected domestically by governments through tariffs to imported sugar and subsidies to local sugar or artificial sweetener producers.

High-fructose corn syrup, also known as HFCS is caloric sweetener that’s used in substitution of cane and beet sugar. It grew in popularity in the late 60’s and the US has been very strong in protecting its production by providing subsidies to corn producers. [29] This process makes it hard for producers of cane sugar such as India to export their goods for profit and it results in ‘sugar dumping’, which simply means the sugar is sold for far less than its production costs, resulting in a negative gain. The import tariffs imposed on sugar makes it up to 400 percent more expensive to purchase sugar from overseas which forces a lot of manufacturers to use HFCS. [30]

On the opposite end of that spectrum, sugar production in India is very high and has met domestic needs with over 10 million tonnes of sugar available for exporting in the 2002-2003 year. [31] The primary issue came with domestic subsidies with trading nations that forced them to sell their excess sugar up to 90 percent cheaper than selling domestically. This is a very common act known as ‘sugar dumping’. Many Asian and south American nations that produce sugar have a lot of trouble exporting their sugar due to a lot of acts, laws and subsidies that governments offer to protect their sweetener industry. Such an example would be The Sugar Industry Protection Act introduced by the US in 1932, which introduced a tariff on imported sugar, specifically that from the Javanese colonies.[32]

Government intervention and policies have greatly increased the price of sugar and sugar based goods for consumers in order to protect domestic sweetener manufacturers and it has been this way for a century.

  1. F. Schneider Jr., “Sugar,” Foreign Affairs, 4, no. 2 (1926): 311.
  2. Ibid., 311.
  3. Ibid., 311-312.
  4. Ibid., 312.
  5. Ibid., 312.
  6. Ibid., 312.
  7. “Sugar Beets,”
  8. F. Schneider Jr., “Sugar,” 313.
  9. Ibid., 313.
  10. Indian Sugar Mills Association, “World Sugar Market Review,”
  11. "Sugar," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,
  12. "Sucrose," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,
  13. "Sugar and Tooth Decay"
  14. History of Metropolitan Vancouver, “BC Sugar”,
  15. History of Metropolitan Vancouver, “BC Sugar”,
  16. Schreiner, John, The Refiners: A Century of BC Sugar, (Canada: John Deyell Company, 1989) Page 9.
  17. Schreiner, John, The Refiners: A Century of BC Sugar, (Canada: John Deyell Company, 1989) Page 15.
  18. Schreiner, John, The Refiners: A Century of BC Sugar, (Canada: John Deyell Company, 1989) Page 12.
  19. Schreiner, John, The Refiners: A Century of BC Sugar, (Canada: John Deyell Company, 1989) Page 11.
  20. Schreiner, John, The Refiners: A Century of BC Sugar, (Canada: John Deyell Company, 1989)
  21. Schreiner, John, The Refiners: A Century of BC Sugar, (Canada: John Deyell Company, 1989) Page 13.
  22. Schreiner, John, The Refiners: A Century of BC Sugar, (Canada: John Deyell Company, 1989) Page 13.
  23. Schreiner, John, The Refiners: A Century of BC Sugar, (Canada: John Deyell Company, 1989) Page 13.
  24. Schreiner, John, The Refiners: A Century of BC Sugar, (Canada: John Deyell Company, 1989) Page 111.
  25. Schreiner, John, The Refiners: A Century of BC Sugar, (Canada: John Deyell Company, 1989) Page 27.
  26. Schreiner, John, The Refiners: A Century of BC Sugar, (Canada: John Deyell Company, 1989) Page 130.
  27. Rogers Sugar, “Overview”,
  28. Rogers Sugar, “Overview”,
  29. Gawali, Suresh. “Distortions in World Sugar Trade” Economic and Political Weekly 38, no. 43 (2003) : 4513
  30. Carman, Hoy F. “A Trend Projection of High Fructose Corn Syrup Substitution for Sugar” American Journal of Agricultural Economics 64, no. 4 (1982) : 625
  31. Rakshit, Susmita. “Cost of Protecting India’s Sugar Industry” Economic and Political Weekly 15, no. 20 (1980) : 893
  32. A. Lopez, Rigoberto. “Political Economy of U.S Sugar Policies.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics 58, no. 1 (1989) : 20