In 1747, a German scientist named
Andreas Sigismund Maggraf invented a method of obtaining sucrose, or table
sugar, from beets (see Figure 1). The first factory whose function was to
turn beets into sugar was constructed in 1801 in Eastern Europe (Heston 15).
Sucrose is stored in the sugar beet during periods of drought or frost,
therefore “the irrigating farmer can prepare his crop for harvest by turning
off the water” (19). The beet can be grown in a
variety of non-tropical climates, as can be seen in Figure 2.
beet industry has grown in importance during key periods of history. For
example, sugar beet production flourished for the first time in Europe during the Napoleonic wars, when
French ports were blockaded by the British, impeding the import of sugar from
Latin American colonies. Because of this, sugar beet overtook sugar cane in
the European market by 1880. Similarly, in the 1920s, sugar beet production
became increasingly significant in England in an attempt to decrease Britain’s reliance on foreign sugar, which
had caused severe shortages during the First World War, as well as to enhance
the agriculture industry (“An introduction”).
Figure 2: Worldwide sugar
Sugar is Made)
In recent years, the subsidization of the sugar
beet industry – primarily a developed-world crop – has been the subject of
scrutiny. This issue is explored in “Sugar Policies.”
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