The sugar beet harvest so far

Nov 14 2019

The sugar beet harvest is underway across the world, and variant weather conditions have already made a significant impact on beet results.


Although many people believe we import all our sugar from sugar cane abroad, with over 3000 sugar beet growers supporting up to 9500 jobs, the sugar beet sector is certainly an integral part of the agricultural economy.

Mainly grown in the East of England, it is usually used in rotation with other crops such as wheat, barley and oilseed rape. It is used in rotation to help offset the loss of the agrochemical neonicotinoids, but growers have recently suffered a further setback going into 2020, as the herbicide desmedipham has also been withdrawn by the EU commission.

The good news for British farmers is that the early signs of the harvest appear promising, with initial lifting producing high yields. This has lead to predictions of a harvest greater than 2018.


The latest reports from the continent, however, are mixed. As of last Tuesday, the French agricultural ministry, Agreste, has raised its forecast for the country’s 2019/20 sugar beet crop to 37,161,941 tonnes. The latest reports from the German Sugar Association, though, have indicated a cut in its estimate of white sugar production in the 2019/20 campaign, as new data has highlighted that less beet was planted than first thought. The loss of neonicotinoids is considered to be the chief explanation for the lack of planting earlier in the year.

Across eastern Europe, the beet harvest has been underway for some time, and it is now refining season. The latest reports suggest that Ukrainian sugar factories have now processed 7.11 million tonnes of sugar beet into 1,054,400 tonnes of sugar. Ukraine has just under 50 sugar refineries, whereas in the UK, our total number of refineries is in single figures. Thus, the beet production in Ukraine is certainly positive news for the Ukrainian economy but needs to be considered in relation to the size of the industry.


North America

Severe weather has decimated the North American sugar beet harvest. It has been stymied by wet weather throughout the planting phase, as the fields have been too muddy for production equipment to pass through, with this further compounded by recent frozen weather. Last week, in Alberta, Canada, Rogers Sugar Inc announced that the severe weather had been so extreme that a decision was made to terminate the year’s beet harvest.

Red River Valley, which forms the border between Minnesota and North Dakota and is the chief beet growing region in the United States, has seen similar problems. This is the first time farmers in the valley have had to quit harvesting beet because of freezing temperatures. Such are the problems caused by the weather, American Crystal Sugar Company announced they would accept frozen beets for a lower price to help meet demand.

The effects on expected harvest have been drastic, with US sugar beet production now expected to total 4.588 million short tonnes, raw value (STRV) during the crop 2019/20 – a significant reduction of 466,000 STRV from last year. The beet harvest is one of the foundations of the economy in the northern states of America, and the effects of the weather on this year’s crop could have significant impacts in the future. Many farmers in the region are planning for the 2020 planting season by cutting off the tops so they can rot in the field, with hopes to plant a different crop and put 2019 behind them.

Beet as a raw material at Ragus

The beet harvest is particularly important to Ragus, as we produce sugar from both cane and beet, making sure we meticulously assess all our suppliers to deliver the best quality products.

It takes approximately seven months from planting to harvest beet, and a more detailed analysis of this process can be found in our learning zone, here. Unlike with cane it is easy to tell early in the beet harvest whether the yield will be successful or not.

So, when sourcing sugar beet, it is vital that we are in tune with the market and current trends. That’s how we form and develop relationships when sourcing beet from our partners in the European continent.

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Granular detail: soft brown sugar

Nov 07 2019

What is soft brown sugar?

Soft brown sugar is granulated sugar that is blended with syrup and treacle to create its brown colour. This means that it can be produced from either sugar beet or sugar cane.

During manufacturing, all our soft sugars must go through sieving and metal detection first before we send the sugar to the blender. Once it has completed this initial stage, the sugar is mixed with our distinctive syrup and treacle blend to coat the crystals.

At Ragus, we manufacture two soft brown sugars: soft brown light sugar and dark soft brown sugar. Their process is identical up until the coating stage, but this distinction results in different colours and flavours and means they are used for different applications.

How is soft brown sugar produced?

Once the sugar has been refined, soft brown sugar is produced with a finer caster-size crystal. This consistent particle size gives soft brown sugar its fine texture. We coat the caster-sized crystal with our custom blends of syrup and treacle to install the flavour of molasses.

The lighter blend of syrup and treacle produces soft brown light sugar, which has an amber colour and mellow taste. Whereas the increased blend of syrup and treacle produces dark brown soft sugar, which is a dark-brown colour and has a stronger and richer taste.

What products is soft brown sugar used in?

Soft brown light sugar is still largely used as a bakery ingredient to add depth to cakes, biscuits and pastries. As well as providing flavour, its high molasses content adds moisture to cakes which makes it ideal for baking, and partly explains why this sugar has such a long history in the baking industry. Furthermore, its fine particle sizes allow it to rapidly dissolve, which consequently lends itself for use in the manufacturing of toffee, fudge and caramel, as well as usage in dressings, sauces and marinades.

The biggest difference between these two types of soft brown sugar is flavour, and the rich taste of dark brown soft sugar means that it is well suited to use in fruitcakes, puddings, gingerbreads, pickles and chutneys. One such application is through our treacle flapjack recipe, which you can find here:

Ragus’ expertise

The diverse range of companies that we provide soft brown sugar to is ever-changing due to new trends and different consumer needs. This means that our customers rely on our manufacturing expertise to ensure that their product is consistent in size, colour, texture and taste. And our state-of-the-art factory and strict quality control procedures allows us to do just that on an industrial scale.

90 years’ experience in the sugar industry means Ragus has a wealth of knowledge on the soft brown sugar you need for your application. Contact us now to order yours.

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