There is a retail market for organic sugar in the EU and until recently the demand was met with imports of organic sugar from Latin America. British Sugar began producing organic sugar in the UK in 2002 but abandoned the organic line because it was not commercially viable. Now, a small number of sugarbeet growers in Austria are growing organic sugarbeets. Without herbicides for weed control, these growers need an enormous amount of hand labor. For disease control, the organic growers spray copper fungicides.
“In the past organic sugar from sugar cane was imported to Europe. In 2008 AGRANA started to contract organic sugar beet… In 2008 organic sugar beet was grown by 105 farmers on 323 ha. Up to 2011 the organic beet area was increased to 913 ha and reached about 2% of the Austrian sugar beet acreage.
Weed control is a major issue in production of organic beet. Farmers are using harrows and inter row cultivators for mechanical weed control. In addition, an enormous input of hand labour is required, on average there is the need for 200 hours per hectare.
Control of Cercospora leaf spot and powdery mildew is carried out by spraying fungicides containing copper or sulfur. Normally two or three sprayings with copper products are required to control Cercospora. It is allowed to apply up to 2 kg Copper per hectare and year.”
Authors: Kempl, F., et al.
Affiliation: AGRANA Zucker GmbH.
Title: Organically grown beets? A growing segment in the Austrian sugar production.
Source: 73ed IIRB Congress. 2012. Proceedings of Papers:183-186.
I’d really like to know the cost to the consumer of the organic sugar versus conventional sugar. It would complete the story for me!