Sugar consumption continues to rise in Bangladesh, driven by increased intake of beverages, biscuits, sweets and confectionary items, said industry operators.
Consumption of the sweetener stood at 24.39 lakh tonnes in fiscal 2015-16, up 15 percent year-on-year and the highest in five years, according to a report of the US Department of Agriculture.
The reason for the increased consumption is the burgeoning middle-class, said Golam Mostafa, chairman of Deshbandhu Group that operates a sugar refinery.
Every year, 20 lakh Bangladeshis are joining the ranks of middle- and affluent-class, according to a report released by Boston Consulting Group last year. Households with annual income of $5,000 or more are considered to be middle-class.
Bangladesh has about 12 million of middle- and affluent-class people, accounting for 7 percent of the total population, according to the report.
Operators said consumption of sugar has been rising every year for its increased use as a key ingredient for beverages, bread and biscuits, confectionary, sweets, cakes and pastries -- whose demand is growing too for the steady economic growth.
“Now you will find a lot of sweet stores in the suburbs. More and more people are buying refrigerators and they like to keep sweets and beverages for consumption at home.”
Bangladesh has five private refineries that can process up to 34 lakh tonnes of imported raw sugar a year.
The country has to spend more than Tk 5,000 crore a year to import raw sugar and the amount is swelling by the year for increased industrial demand, according to Bangladesh Bank data and refiners.
Raw sugar imports rose 8.5 percent from a year earlier to 21.16 lakh tonnes in fiscal 2015-16, according to data compiled by Bangladesh Sugar & Food Industries Corporation, the state agency that operates state sugar mills.
“The demand for fast food, especially cakes and pastries, is rising. A huge quantity of sugar is needed for the soft drinks industry,” said Bishwajit Saha, general manager of City Group that runs the country's biggest sugar refinery.
The refinery processes 10 lakh tonnes of sugar a year. Sugar consumption will rise further in the years to come, he said.
Three-four years ago, per capita consumption of sugar in Bangladesh was 7-8 kilograms a year. It now stands at 11-12 kilograms on an average, Saha said.
“Still we are lagging behind India and Pakistan in terms of per capita intake.”
India's per capita sugar consumption averaged at 20 kilograms between 2012 and 2014, according to OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2015.
“From that point of view, sugar consumption will rise further in Bangladesh,” Saha added.
The per capita consumption of sugar in Bangladesh may rise to 19.8 kilograms by 2024.
Deshbandhu is set to increase its raw sugar processing capacity to meet the rising demand at home and abroad, Mostafa said.
The refinery's production capacity will rise to four lakh tonnes from existing 1.5 lakh tonnes. “We hope to process increased amounts of sugar by the end of this year,” he added.
State-run mills also process sugar -- less than one lakh tonnes a year -- from locally grown sugarcane, according to Bangladesh Economic Review 2016.