Sugar beet in Austria

Sugar beet harvest
Photo: BML

Facts and figures on the cultivation of sugar beet in Austria

Sugar beet

In Austria, sugar is made from sugar beet, an agricultural crop of the amaranth family. The sugar beet is very demanding when it comes to soil composition, fertilisation, plant protection and crop rotation and requires farmers to have lots of experience. In Austria, the main areas of cultivation are Lower Austria, Burgenland and Upper Austria. Sugar beet is planted between mid-March and the beginning of April, depending on climatic conditions, and harvested between mid-September and the end of November.

Every year, 6,500 sugar beet farmers in Austria harvest over 3 million tonnes of sugar beet grown on nearly 45,000 hectares. These sugar beets are refined into roughly 500,000 tonnes of white sugar. In other words, around 10 tonnes of sugar "grow" on one hectare of arable land or, when broken down even further, 1 kg of sugar on one square meter. One sugar beet can weigh up to 1,200 grammes. Weather conditions also determine the sugar content of beets; on average, beets contain 17 percent sugar. All the figures given above are average values and subject to strong fluctuations from year to year.

At 3.5 million tonnes of sugar beet, the 2016 harvest broke all records on account of the excellent growth conditions. Average sugar content, though, was low at 15.2%.

Sugar is produced in the Tulln and Leopoldsdorf sugar factories where operation is determined by the individual sugar beet campaigns. The sugar produced in these operations is marketed under the brand name "Wiener Zucker".

Market organisation

The organisation of the sugar market is part of the Regulation establishing a common organisation for agricultural products (Regulation (EU) no 1308/2013). The key element of this market organisation, i.e. the quota system for sugar production, will be expiring at the end of the 2016/2017 business year. The Austrian sugar quota amounts to 351,027 tonnes. Once the quota system expires, i.e. as of 1 October 2017, only a few market organisation tools for sugar production will be retained, among them border protection, private storage and a sectoral agreement between sugar beet farmers and the sugar industry.